The Union Recorder

May 2, 2013

Advocates seek city skate spot space

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Since 2004, skateboarding reigns as the third most popular sport among teenagers. Milledgeville currently has no space for skaters to congregate, after the high-liability skating area next to the Golden Pantry off Hancock Street closed in 2005.

Milledgeville native and skateboarding progressive sports advocate Ben Joiner thinks the time is now for building a small-scale skate spot on the unused concrete slab at Central City Park. This usable 20 x 100 foot portion near the corner of West Franklin and North Tattnall streets serves as an ideal, centralized location.

“We have zero space,” Joiner said. “The spot we are talking about looks like God created it for skaters.”

Other Georgia cities like Dublin, Valdosta and Thompson built skate parks. Locations such as Chatham County and a planned 40,000 square foot regional skate park in Kennesaw are taking advantage of what Joiner sees as a low cost way to boost local economies, benefit at-risk kids and improve community health.

“Most cities are surprised by how popular the skate parks are. Why not make money for our town? The bottom line is recreation keeps kids out of trouble,” Joiner said.

The skate spot’s technical plans, created by Joiner, include a flat bar, ledge also known as a grind box and a three and a half foot quaterpipe up the park’s natural embankment. The quarterpipe would be 20 foot wide to match the existing slab.

A 5,000 square foot skate spot serves five to eight users at a time. The development is so small and simple that Joiner estimated a $5,000 cost, mostly for the pipe, on the high end.

“We don’t need much money and are using a space that isn’t taking away from anything,” Joiner said. “It’s a one-time expense.”

Liability isn’t a concern, according to city attorney Jimmy Jordan. The city must be involved in the entire process making sure the final product rises up to code.

Posted skate spot rules such as protective gear use and other safety regulations make the idea no different than other park activity areas.

“The key from the city standpoint is to make sure that if you authorize such a thing on city property we are going to be responsible for making sure it’s properly designed and maintained,” Jordan said. “I’d be use at your own risk, but at the same time, we would have certain safety standards. It’s no different from the swimming pool at Walter B. Williams when it was up and running from that standpoint.”

City Public Works Director Frank Baugh said any future planning like the renovation of Layton Field or other Central City Park projects must be consistent with a master plan.

Baugh said ultimately the skate spot’s future lies with what kind of amenities elected officials look at targeting.

“Whether that’s what we do in the park or not, we aren’t in a position to commit. We’d have to see what’s consistent with the city’s long-term vision in terms of what we are doing with our parks,” Baugh said.

City Manager Barry Jarrett said chatter about a skate park has gone on recently though no proposals have officially moved forward at the city.

Councilwoman Denese Shinholster, District 3, mentioned several Council members seem to think the shape of Central City Park would be conducive to building a skate park.

“The idea is that we would look into how one could be designed. We are looking into, not necessarily recreation because the city is not in the recreation business, something as an outdoor activity for people to enjoy,” Shinholster said. “I think it’s a wonderful place in close proximity to the college. Central City Park has always been a place for a lot of people to go because of the access to it.” 

Milledgeville’s District 4 encompasses Central City Park and is represented by Milledgeville City Councilman Phillip Joiner (no relation to Ben Joiner). The councilman described recognizing alternative sports as a meaningful community health venture and a way to remove skaters from the sidewalks.

Team sports are wonderful but not for everyone, according to the councilman.

“This is a gaping hole in what is relevant in today’s culture,” Phillip Joiner said. “It seems to be such a no brainer to do this.”

Joiner said a negative punk skateboarding perception promoted in the 1980s is statistically unfounded considering 13 million skate nationwide. 

“They can’t all be put under one box,” Joiner said. “You wind up hanging out with people from different segments of society that you would never hang out with otherwise.”

The sport is safer than most realize, according to ‘The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection, and Critical Care” published in 2002.

Skateboarding is safer than snowboarding, bicycling, football and basketball based on the injury journal.

Media portrayal hasn’t helped this so-called false characterization, skateboarding advocates note.

“You are inundated daily with clips of people doing these crazy stunts, when in fact it’s actually a ton safer than people realize,” Phillip said.

Joiner wants to work with city officials to get the ball rolling for area skateboarders. He promises the simple design won’t be a park eyesore.

“The future is endless. Who knows where this could go. After most towns build these, everybody who supported it looks really good,” Joiner said.

The Alliance for Milledgeville Progressive Sports Facebook page has a downloadable version of the skate spot’s technical details. Ben Joiner can be reached at 478-456-3046 and benjoiner@ymail.com.

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