A group of skateboarders asked the North Wilkesboro commissioners Tuesday night to expand or replace the skate park infrastructure at Smoot Park.
Speaking for the group at the town board meeting, Tony Prestipino of Wilkesboro asked the board to consider expanding the size of the skate park. “The field (next to the skate park) is currently unoccupied,” he noted.
Prestipino also suggested replacing the skate ramps at Smoot Park with those at the Wilkes Recreation Department’s Lowe’s Park at River’s Edge off N.C. 268 West in Wilkesboro. He said the River’s Edge skate park is closing.
Wilkes Recreation Director Kevin Anderson said in an interview Wednesday that the River’s Edge skate park is still open, but will be closed at an undermined point in the near future.
Anderson the county plans to build a large restroom and bath house facility and covered picnic shelter area on the site of the River’s Edge skate park for that eastern end of the park. Another athletic facility could be built there also, he added.
Anderson said the River’s Edge skate park ramps and other infrastructure were offered to North Wilkesboro, but he hasn’t heard a response yet. Town Manager Wilson Hooper said Thursday the town had heard of the offer and was “confirming today if the offer is official.”
The skate park and a nearby BMX course opened at River’s Edge at a cost of about $250,000 in August 2003. The BMX course, later closed its mounds of dirt flattened, and skate park were part of improvements to the park costing $500,000. It was partly funded with $250,000 from the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation. No county tax dollars were used, but the county has provided operational services, maintenance and security.
In January 2019, six young skateboarders appeared before the Wilkes County commissioners to request repairs to the River’s Edge skate park. Brian Hayes, their spokesman, said then, “We just want a safe place to skateboard.” Hayes said he and other skateboarders wanted the county to either repair the skate park or let skateboarders repair it.
Anderson said in an interview just after the January 2019 meeting that County Manager John Yates asked him to get quotes on the cost of repairing the concrete surface of the River’s Edge skate park as a result of the request from Hayes and the other skateboarders. Anderson also said there had been a period of years when virtually no one used the skate park.
Tuesday night, Prestipino asked if his group could invest its own money and build skate infrastructure at Smoot Park if the River’s Edge ramps couldn’t be moved there. “Skate culture is heavily saturated with do-it-yourself skate parks, and that idea is appealing to us.”
He said letting skaters help construct a skate park “builds a ton of skills for younger people. They’re learning a trade like concrete work, and it also keeps them out of trouble.”
Town Manager Wilson Hooper pledged to meet with the skaters. “We’re always looking for ways to enhance our recreational infrastructure” and having partners would make that easier, said Hooper.
Mayor Robert Johnson and the commissioners board thanked the group for attending the meeting and voicing its concerns.
In October 2018, Prestipino addressed the board concerning a North Wilkesboro ordinance banning skateboarding on sidewalks and streets. He said the ban is ridiculous because it’s no different from biking or other means of getting from point A to point B. “We’re being stopped by the cops and told to get off our skateboards. They tell us to go to the parks, but the parks aren’t being maintained like they’re supposed to.”
He said then that concrete at Smoot Park is in bad shape and is a safety hazard. He asked the town to either legalize skateboarding on sidewalks or repair the skate park. “It’s a real big issue, and we’d like to get it fixed.” Prestipino was told then that state statutes prohibit skateboards on streets or highways.
North Wilkesboro Recreation Director Nelson Martin said then that ramps at the Smoot Park skate park had recently been repaired and that cracks in the concrete of the skate park would be repaired when the weather turned warmer.