Group discusses ways to fund new skate park

Posted: January 22, 2013

The Winchester Star

Santiago Herrera of Winchester gets in a little hang time on his skateboard in Jim Barnett Park earlier this month. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — Efforts to raise money for the city’s skate pavilion are about to begin in earnest.

Brad Veach, Winchester’s parks and recreation director, said fundraising was the primary topic at a Saturday meeting for volunteers interested in helping with the project. About 10 people of various ages attended the meeting.

The Skate Pavilion Executive Committee had ideas about ways the $70,000 it wants to raise can be obtained, but Veach said assistance is needed. The panel’s goal is to be able to have new equipment bought and installed this summer.

“One of the things we realized as a committee was that we couldn’t do everything we want to do by ourselves,” he said. “We sent emails to people who had attended skate-plaza meetings rather than put out a wide call for volunteers.”

The city has had its first public spot to skate legally — in an existing pavilion at Christianson Familyland in Jim Barnett Park — for about two months. If enough money is raised, equipment will be purchased and installed to turn that area into a street-skating pavilion.

Veach said three types of fundraising activities are planned:

Solicitation of in-kind contributions. Donations of concrete, other materials and labor are needed for the sections of the pavilion that the skate-equipment manufacturer would not build. Veach said a local contractor has agreed to supply rebar for the project.

Direct cash contributions from sponsors. A list of about 50 potential sponsors has been created, and volunteers will visit them to solicit donations.

Fundraising events. Veach said the events would raise both awareness about the skate pavilion and raise money. Car raffles, skate competitions and a series of concerts are among the ideas being considered.

Veach said improvements at the site, such as the installation of safety guards on brick columns, has been paid for with money raised in previous, unsuccessful efforts to secure money for a skate facility.

The pavilion was opened to skaters on Nov. 21, giving them a legal, public place to skate for the first time. Veach said there have been no problems with vandalism or fights, but compliance with the helmet rule has been an issue.

Skaters are required to register with the department and submit a liability waiver. Once they do that, they’re given a helmet sticker that signifies that they can skate legally.

“There have been quite a few occasions where we had to tell them that they have to get a helmet and a helmet sticker or they can’t skate,” Veach said. “When we go down and talk to them, they understand.

“There haven’t been any confrontations. We just tell them that if they’re going to use this facility, they have to follow the rules and use a helmet.”

Most public skate facilities in Virginia require helmets, he said, but not all of them. The city is requiring it for insurance reasons.

Though Veach said no one has been penalized to date, skaters who repeatedly refuse to use a helmet face suspension and even a ban from the pavilion. A form has been developed for park staff to submit the names of people warned about not using helmets.

“There will come a time, especially once we start getting the equipment and we start seeing more people down there, where they’ll have no option if we’re going to continue to use this as a skate spot,” Veach said. “Now is the time to get some of the older ones to say, ‘Maybe it’s not the coolest thing to do, but we have to because the park requires it and it is a safety issue.’”

It’s impossible to know whether opening a legal place to skate is a contributing factor, but complaints from throughout the city about skaters are down.

Lauren Cummings, spokesman for the Winchester Police Department, said that the department has received 12 skateboarding complaints since Nov. 21. Over the same period in 2011-12, 17 complaints were received.

Veach said police have been given fliers about the location to give to people who are skating in other sections of the city.

A tentative design for the skate site has been created, he said. The layout combines a potential design submitted by an equipment manufacturer and obstacles added by Matt Paul, a 2012 Millbrook High School graduate and member of the skate pavilion committee.

Raising $70,000, Veach said, should pay for the new equipment and allow the committee to bank some money for maintenance.

That effort could receive a big assist from City Council in the next six months. Veach said he’s requested that council provide a grant of up to $35,000 in fiscal year 2014 to match money the committee will raise; no commitment has been made to fund that request.

The Christianson Familyland skate pavilion, he added, is being considered the potential first phase of plans to provide skating facilities in Winchester. Room exists to expand at the site, and if successful, skating amenities might be added in some neighborhood parks.

winchesterva.gov/parks/skate-pavilion.php

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com