North Wilkesboro has a chance to gain economically by becoming more of a destination, increase healthy recreational opportunities and respond to an expressed need by renovating and expanding the skate park at Smoot Park.

Kudos to persistent local skateboarders who have repeatedly appeared before the Wilkes County and North Wilkesboro commissioners in recent years requesting improvements to the two local public skate parks. Each time, the skateboarders have offered to help with the work.

County and town commissioners have appeared willing to consider the requests, but little more than lip service has come of it.

Tony Prestipino, spokesman for a handful of skateboarders who appeared before the North Wilkesboro commissioners last week, asked the board to consider expanding the Smoot Park skate park into an adjacent vacant field.

Prestipino also suggested replacing the skate ramps at Smoot Park with those at the Wilkes County Recreation Department’s larger skate park at Lowe’s Park at River’s Edge on N.C. 268 West in Wilkesboro. The River’s Edge skate park essentially is closed.

On Friday, Wilkes County Manager John Yates confirmed that county officials don’t plan to repair the severely pitted and cracked concrete surface of the River’s Edge skate park and also confirmed that the park’s ramps and other infrastructure have been offered to North Wilkesboro at no cost.

The lighted skate park, a BMX course and metal building with snack machines, restrooms and skateboard shop provided by Cook’s in North Wilkesboro opened at River’s Edge in August 2003, and were received well.

The BMX course’s dirt mounds were flattened a few years after races there ended. The skate park was popular among local and area skateboarders for several more years, but its out of the way location led to undesirable activities there and it soon reached its current condition.

The skate park and BMX course, costing about $250,000, were part of about $500,000 in improvements to River’s Edge funded entirely by donated funds. These donations should be honored by putting as much of the River’s Edge skate park back to use as possible.

The average price for a skate park appears to be around $250,000, but using the infrastructure from River’s Edge should reduce the price significantly.

Smoot Park is a better location for a skate park, partly because of its high visibility and good access in the middle of town.

More elaborate and well-designed skate parks elsewhere, with features appropriate for skaters at different skill levels, draw visitors (including as pedestrians) to the interiors of towns. Morganton is about to open just such a skate park.

It’s important to include significant input from skateboarders when designing a skate park.

Skateboarding is great cardio exercise and provides a full body workout. In addition, the combination of extreme physical exertion and precise muscle coordination improves brain function. Skate parks help promote active lifestyles for people of all ages, thus addressing a big concern in Wilkes.

Skate parks provide a much safer alternative to skateboarding on streets and sidewalks.

Skateboarding will make its debut as a sport at the Summer Olympic Games this year in Tokyo, which is expected to make it grow in popularity throughout the United States.

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