A new skateboard facility could be on the horizon at Memorial Park in Southern Pines. During a work session Monday afternoon, town leaders met with planning staff and William Dean, a local business owner and founder of Skaters for Moore, to go over some ideas and concerns.
The discussion follows a request last month from developer and homebuilder Marcel Goneau to ease up on some of the town’s restrictions on allowing skateboarding on residential streets and in the downtown area, with the exception of the basketball court at Downtown Park. Goneau died unexpectedly Nov. 13.
Mayor Carol Haney asked for a moment of silence to recognize Goneau, stating that she had known him professionally as a real estate broker and elected official. Haney said her thoughts and prayers were with Goneau’s family.
Assistant Town Manager Jessica Roth said the popularity of skateboarding and demand for a place to safely skate has increased as a result of the pandemic. Families are spending more time outdoors, “There seems to be a cry out there for this to happen.”
Town staff initially presented some potential regulatory changes on skateboarding rules in October, that were primarily focused on pedestrian safety on and around Broad Street. Planning Director BJ Grieve said that discussion led to the incorrect perception that the town was trying to ban skateboarding entirely.
That misunderstanding generated a lot of conversation, Grieve said, and most in the community, skaters and non-skaters alike, seemed to be in agreement that a dedicated skateboard park is the best solution.
A “full blown” skatepark would be cost prohibitive. Instead, Grieve and Roth met with Southern Pines Police, the town’s recreation director, Dean and a representative of Friends of the Skateparks Foundation, a Fayetteville-based nonprofit organization, to hash out ideas.
Southern Pines provides tennis, disc golf, basketball, horseshoes and many other basic outdoor amenities at its parks. “So having a grind box and rail slide (elements used to perform advanced maneuvers by skateboarders) doesn’t seem unreasonable.” They are also relatively inexpensive, Grieve added.
“I think this is something we can look at. I don’t like where you’re saying you can’t do it and then not providing an alternative. That is wrong,” said Haney.
Dean said with the addition of skateboarding as an Olympic sport, “I don’t foresee there will be a lull in skateboarding (interest) for a long, long time. With more and more skateboarders in town, if the need is not addressed, I think you will have problems.”
About a decade ago, Dean helped establish a nonprofit skatepark in Pinebluff. He said the facility was successful but, ultimately, not financially viable. He said what skaters are looking for is a place that is safe and fun.
“If you say you can skate in residential areas, you are sending kids out to skate in the streets. If you don’t give them a place to go and also tell them you can’t do it, it creates a situation...the benefits (of a municipal) skatepark far outweigh the negatives,” Dean said.
Town Manager Reagan Parsons said liability insurance was reasonable as long as the skate elements were no higher than three feet off the ground. He also noted that developing large facilities like the new skateboarding parks in Fayetteville in Apex could run $500,000 to $1.5 million. The town is looking at a more modest outlay of around $50,000.
The “leading contender” site identified thus far is a lighted racquetball court at Memorial Park. Located on Morganton Road, between South Bennett Street and U.S. 1, the park’s other amenities include a playground and picnic shelter, basketball court, shuffleboard and horseshoe pits, plus the Southern Pines Recreation Center gyms, tennis courts, and baseball fields. The park also has plenty of parking and restroom facilities.
Pate cautioned the racquetball court was fixed up about a decade ago as part of a local Eagle Scout project. He suggested the town should reach out to the family to discuss any concerns they may have.
In other discussion on Monday, the Southern Pines Town Council:
Welcomed incoming council members Taylor Clement and Ann Petersen who will be sworn-in to office on Dec. 8.
Heard a presentation from Roth on a proposed Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) that would provide a more consistent outlay for anticipated major projects on a year-to-year basis.
Considered a proposed 99-year lease for the Blanchie Carter Discovery Park property from the Southern Pines Land and Housing Trust. The $160,000 prepaid lease agreement shall only become binding on the parties if the Trust obtains fee simple ownership of the 17-acre parcel (which includes the park).
Received a clean financial audit report from Chad Cook with Dixon Hughes Goodman.