Skate with less peril

At the Chapel Hill skate park on Tuesday afternoon, X marked the spots where repairs were needed. And there were an awful lot of X’s.

The painters were applying a fresh coat to the concrete shelter where the shop and bathrooms are. But the most important work at the 10,000-square-foot park off Homestead Road was being done by the repairmen who were replacing worn and ragged laminate wooden boards and ramps. Those features are what draw the most people, and those features are most in need of repair.

Councilman Jim Ward acknowledged at the Town Council meeting Monday night that the skate park had gotten pretty beaten up. He wanted to know whether the town had been holding up its end of the contract with Vertical Urge, which manages the park, as well as it should have. In addition to the skate board ramps, he cited batting cages that are unreliable, where holes in the nets allow the balls to land out in the woods and be lost.

“We’re doing what we’re required to do,” Ray “Butch” Kisiah, the director of Parks and Recreation, confessed to the council. “Is it as well as we should be doing it? In my opinion, probably not. It comes down to having the resources to do the job. . . . Chapel Hill did a great thing: They started this skate park before any other community got involved in skateboarding. It’s an old facility, it’s a wooden facility, and it wears out. “

Kisiah said the town must look at improvements to the park. Facilities in Raleigh and Durham have opened recently and are constructed of concrete, so those facilities don’t have the wear-and-tear issues that Chapel Hill’s does. Those facilities also are free. So the combination of price and condition may be putting a drag on Chapel Hill’s park.

Ward called it an outlet that’s different from traditional sports facilities — it provides a recreation opportunity for kids who aren’t interested in football and baseball and tennis and so forth.

“To me, it’s important to have those non-traditional sports and support them,” Ward said.

Tough economic times make it unlikely the town can do anything now about a revamped skate park. But if the $16 million in library bonds are sold, the council could use a modest $250,000 slice to build a concrete skate park on the library grounds. The expanded library site would serve a greater segment of town youth. And maybe county residents wouldn’t balk at paying for a library card if it included free use of the skate park.
–Don Evans

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