A conceptual model for a new, 40,000-square-foot concrete skatepark in downtown Charleston includes a professional-level bowl up to 12 feet deep, a winding snake run, and a 520-foot-long street course with granite grinding elements. Tito Porrata, a skater and designer with the Florida-based skatepark design company Team Pain, presented the computerized model at a public information meeting Wednesday night for the planned park near the intersection of Meeting and Huger streets.
Here are a few of the other elements incorporated in the conceptual model:
• sections of colored concrete to cut down on glare on sunny days
• a smaller, intermediate-level bowl with sides ranging from 6 to 9 feet deep
• numerous hips, some including gaps, in the street plaza
• a Miami bank, a Jersey barrier, and an 18-foot A-ledge
• a two-foot quarterpipe for beginners to practice dropping in
• an abstract-shaped staircase with a banked wall beside it for wallriding
Porrata stressed that the model was only a "paper skatepark" and that the finished product would be influenced by public input gathered at the meeting and on comment sheets. During a comment and question section of the meeting, which was held in Edisto Hall at James Island County Park, skaters and families of skaters raised a number of issues, including the desire for adult skaters to be given the option of riding without pads, the comparative advantages of steel and concrete coping at the bowl edges (Porrata explained that the company preferred concrete), and the need for lighting to allow nighttime skating. It was also suggested that Team Pain create replicas of popular street skating spots from around Charleston.
If you missed the meeting, you can submit comments on the skatepark via the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission website.
The BMX issue
About 100 people attended the meeting, including a small contingent of BMX riders. The Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission, which will fund the park's construction with $2 million of its own savings from ticket and concession sales, had hinted in a press release that the park could be accessible to BMX, but the idea became a bone of contention at the meeting. Some skaters said that allowing bikes in the skatepark would be dangerous for skaters and that bike pegs would cause serious damage to the park's concrete elements. Porrata said that a skatepark in Colorado has put up signs forbidding metal pegs.
But Shannon Smith, president of local skate advocacy group Pour It Now, said BMXers should go to a separate park. "I did do some research, because of course I'm a skater and a parent of a skater," Smith said. "I went to the bike organizations that I could find on the internet, and it did say the safest way to have the two together is to have them separate, have their own separate parks, because between a bike and a skateboard, a bike's going to always win." One skater, Mark Frady, said he had gotten a cracked kneecap at a skatepark in Athens, Ga., when a BMX rider dropped in near a corner and hit him with a handlebar. One audience member pointed out that a skatepark in Charlotte has times set aside specifically for BMX riders (specifically, Charlotte's Grayson Skatepark has a bikes-only time slot on Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m., according to its website).
Another Pour It Now member, Lindsay Gagne, said BMX riders had not been involved with advocating for the park up until this point. "It'd be one thing if we worked with the BMXers this whole time," said Gagne, Pour It Now's secretary. "We didn't see any of them at any of our Pour It Now events over the last nine years."
But after the meeting, in the parking lot, BMX riders told a different story. Bill Mims said peaceful coexistence was possible, including at the Hangar, a semi-secret local skating spot where he said he and other BMXers had been invited to ride before. "I've traveled around enough on the East Coast, lived in a lot of cities, and I've always gone to free skateparks where skateboarders get along with BMXers," Mims said. He said the closest BMX-accessible skatepark is in Bluffton, over two hours away.
Taylor Pitts, another BMX rider, said he felt excluded from Pour It Now events over the years. "If you even mentioned the word 'bike' in front of them, they would blow you off immediately," Pitts said.
"You know how difficult it is being any sort of minority," added BMX rider Ben Aton. "You know, there's four of us and how many hundreds of skaters in Charleston? Thousands, even. Of course our voice is going to get silenced a little bit and there's going to be angry people about it."