by Paul Bowers
The Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission will present its master plan for a long-awaited public skatepark on Thurs. June 18 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Edisto Hall in James Island County Park (871 Riverland Drive).
According to a press release, the meeting's agenda will include "a brief history of the project, a presentation of the master plan, information on the current status of the project and its timeline, and a presentation of the skate park's elements." The meeting will also include a Q&A session.
It's been more than five years since Park and Rec set aside money to build the skatepark, and all they have to show for it so far is a mound of dirt at a site on Oceanic Street. But for skaters who've been asking local governments to build a park since the early 2000s, it's a glorious mound of dirt.
"I really feel like it's going to happen," says Shannon Smith, founder of the local advocacy group Pour It Now.
The most recent estimated completion date for the skatepark was April 2016, but in a press release today, Park and Rec kept its predictions vague. "Due to the complexity of the project," the release said, "a completion date for the site is not yet known but is projected for 2016." Updates on the construction project will be posted at charlestoncountyparks.com/skatepark.
The mound of dirt visible from I-26 is helping to stabilize the soil at the skatepark site, which is located at 1593 Oceanic St. in the Neck alongside marsh land on the Ashley River. In a process known as surcharge or preloading, tons of dirt have been placed on the site and layered with geotechnical stabilization fabric. The pile will remain in place for eight to 10 months with the force of gravity causing it to settle until the ground underneath has become dense enough for construction crews to pour concrete on top of it.
The June 18 meeting comes more than two-and-a-half years after Park and Rec's first public meeting about the skatepark, which featured a computerized model from skatepark designer Team Pain.
"Attendees can see how ideas they provided at the first meeting will be incorporated into the future park site," the press release says. "Although the skate elements and associated facilities will be constructed first, the master plan reserves areas for future development of complementary recreational features to appeal to diverse visitors."
The original site for the skatepark, on city-owned land under highway overpasses near the intersection of Meeting and Huger streets, had to be abandoned after the S.C. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration demanded a series of prohibitively expensive environmental and safety studies.
Park and Rec considered several options for relocating the park, including on land it already owned inside James Island County Park, but officials from the parks department and the city of Charleston insisted that the skatepark should remain on or near the peninsula.
In early 2014, the parks department settled on the current marsh-front site on Oceanic Street, which contains about 150,000 square feet of upland area — nearly four times the size of the original site. But the land was tied up in an heirs' property dispute, leading to more delays before the department finally bought the land in December 2014.
Park and Rec originally planned to build the park with $2 million from its Enterprise Fund, which comes from concessions and ticket sales at county parks. But as planning, land purchase, and soil remediation costs mounted, Park and Rec had to allocate an additional $850,000 from its Capital Improvement Projects budget in 2013. The City of Charleston and the nonprofit Speedwell Foundation also pitched in a combined $928,000 in 2014 (the city's half of that sum came from an existing Tax Increment Financing District that includes the Oceanic Street property).
At this point, Smith says she would have preferred to have the skatepark finished already at James Island County Park, but she's happy to see it being built at all.
"[Park and Rec] has been great, and they've been humble too — and apologetic," Smith says.
If you would like to submit questions in advance of the June 18 meeting, you can do so by clicking here.
Park and Rec is also holding a SK8 Charleston Video Contest, with the maker of the best one-minute skateboarding video receiving a $50 gift card to Continuum Skateshop. The entry period starts June 1 and ends at ends June 11 at 10 a.m. You can submit an entry by clicking here.