Six skateboarders appeared before the Wilkes County commissioners Tuesday night to request repairs to the skate park at Lowe’s Park at River’s Edge in Wilkesboro.
“We just want a safe place to skateboard,” said Brian Hayes, spokesman for the group. Hayes is a Wilkes Community College student, but most of those with him were high school students.
Hayes said the River’s Edge skate park is where he began skating at age 8 and progressed.
“Over the years, I’ve seen it (the skate park) be neglected,” he said, explaining that its concrete surface became cracked and bubbled and developed pot holes. He said this has made it hard to safely skate there. “I compare it to skateboarding on the moon.”
Hayes said he and the skateboarders he represented want the county to either repair the skate park or let the skateboarders repair it.
He said that over the years he met many people from out of town skateboarding at River’s Edge, including people stopping there to skate while on their way to the mountains. “It’s like a little rest stop” for them. Hayes said people from nearby towns like Lenoir also once used it.
Hayes said the River’s Edge skate park was once a great place—“the best skate park on this side of North Carolina.” Due to its condition, he added, “We go over there very seldom now because it’s very hazardous to our health.”
He said he knows other things have occurred there, “but for us it’s all about skateboarding. It’s not about drugs, alcohol or destructing property. It’s a pure form of enjoyment.”
Hayes said there are a lot of baseball fields, soccer fields and facilities for other sports locally, “but one thing we don’t have in the Wilkesboro vicinity is a working skate park. By that happening, we are being forced into the streets” and this results in tickets or being told to not skate around town.
He said having a working skate park in Wilkesboro would result in fewer hassles for everyone.
Smoot Park skate park
After Hayes spoke during the “public concerns” portion of the meeting and before the regular meeting started, some of the skateboarders with Hayes said they live in the West Wilkes High School district so the River’s Edge skate park is much closer for them than the Town of North Wilkesboro’s skate park at Smoot Park.
North Wilkesboro Recreation Director Nelson Martin said in an interview later this week that ramps at the Smoot Park skate park were recently repaired and that cracks in the concrete surface of the skate park will be repaired when the weather turns warmer.
Martin said there are sometimes as many as 15-20 people using the Smoot Park skate park when the weather is warm.
Keith Elmore, chairman of the commissioners, complimented Hayes for the way he presented the matter to the commissioners and for offering solutions.
Wilkes Recreation Director Kevin Anderson said in an interview later that Wilkes County Manager John Yates on Wednesday asked him to get quotes on the cost of repairing the concrete surface of the skate park as a result of the presentation Tuesday night.
Anderson said there was a period of several years where virtually no one used the skate park.
The skate park was heavily used for a period after it and an adjacent BMX (Bicycle Motor Cross) course opened at Lowe’s Park at River’s Edge in August 2003.
The skate park and BMX course together were called the Edge Extreme Sports. The BMX course initially had races, but eventually was seldom used and the mounds of dirt that comprised it were flattened.
The skate park was designed for a capacity of 78 users at one time and had lights for use at night, but the lights are no longer functioning.
It also included a metal building with concession machines and restrooms. Cooks Inc. in North Wilkesboro leased part of the building for skateboarding equipment sales and rentals. The building is now at the nearby county garage facility for use for storage.
The skate park and BMX course, costing about $250,000, were part of the first of two phases of improvements to Lowe’s Park at River’s Edge with a total cost of $500,000. This was a partnership between local companies, private individuals and county government. Wilkes Community College funded a baseball field for a team the college later dropped.
The Lowe’s (Companies Inc.) Charitable and Educational Foundation contributed $250,000. The $500,000 included no Wilkes County tax dollars, but the county has provided ongoing operational services, maintenance and security.