Advocates still seek site for skateboard facility in Dover. They hope to build a $600,000 site for area skateboarders.


    Although monetary issues are likely to delay the construction of a Dover skate park, a small group of advocates is continuing to narrow down sites in the hopes of building a $600,000 concrete park in the future.

    The Dover Skate Park Committee, which reports to City Council’s Parks and Recreation Committee and meets every other week, has been working for nearly a year on a Dover skate park.
 
   Chris Asay, a member of the committee, said they’ve been going through a stepwise process of understanding how skate parks are designed and built, as well as narrowing Dover’s 26 city parks to six or seven sites they feel are best suited.

    The park would be less than one-third of an acre, but still need a central location that’s visible for security reasons. For those reasons, Asay said the committee’s list includes the park at Dover and New streets, Mayfair Park, Paul’s Property, Saulsbury Park, Schutte Park, Silver Lake Recreation Area and Williams Park.
 
   However, the group still needs to find out which neighborhoods would be most supportive. He said every city council member he’s talked to is in favor of the concept of a skate park, but only if the neighborhood buys in.
 
   Councilman Eugene Ruane, a Parks and Recreation Committee member, feels parental involvement is critical to gain public support near a potential site.
 
   He added that he sees skateboarders practicing on the streets and on public and private property as he drives around town, and most of those places are inappropriate and destructive.
 
   “The city has had a persistent problem with skaters skating where they shouldn’t,” Asay said, adding that skateboarders need facilities just like basketball or baseball players.
 
   He said there are hundreds of skaters from Dover and several thousand in the surrounding community, and without facilities they have to skate in the street, the back of a supermarket or in the downtown area.
 
   Danny Mills, 18, of Dover, said he’s been skateboarding since he was 8 and it was really popular as he and his peers grew up. However, not having a park has hurt his skills.
 
   “I went to the Charm City Park a couple of weeks ago in Baltimore and there was a 10-year-old skating better than me,” he said.
 
   Although the costs are high for a concrete skate park, Asay said once it’s built there’s little maintenance involved.

    However, the committee recently had a significant setback when the city took back $10,000, which was to be used for site evaluation and preliminary planning, due to revenue shortfalls. Asay said they hadn’t yet spent the money and originally had hoped to get half of the estimated $600,000 building costs with the next budget cycle.

    The committee members were confident once the city made a big commitment, they could get money from national foundations and the state, he said. There’s also hope of receiving funding from the county, which has expressed interest, but would like a park to be within Dover city limits.

    At this point, with funding looking unlikely, Asay said committee members plan to continue with site selection so when the economy eases up they’ll be ready to go. They also know some of the federal stimulus money can be used toward recreation.
 
   Ruane said parents and youth need to come forward in support of the project during city budget hearings.

    “So if it’s there, it will happen,” he said of support for the park, “If it’s not there, then it will take longer.”

    Nearby, in Smyrna, the town built a skate park in Municipal Park, on North Main Street, approximately five years ago that is half the size of the proposed Dover park.
 
   It initially had a lot of opposition, said Town Manager Dave Hugg. It was his wife and stepson who were instrumental in getting the park created.

    He said kids were skateboarding on railings and steps, and some people wanted to ban any kind of skating downtown altogether.
 
   “There was some kind of ‘those kids’ opposition,” Hugg said, adding that others were worried about liability until they could be convinced it was no different than a basketball court or baseball field.

    “It’s just part of our park system,” he said.

    Now, Hugg said, the park has turned out to be a good investment for the town, with it being used constantly and with almost no complaints about kids skating where they shouldn’t.

    In addition, Smyrna Chief of Police Richard H. Baldwin said overall there have been very few problems or complaints with the park itself. The biggest issues are with criminal mischief or vandalism, but nothing as serious as fighting or drugs.

    Mayor Pat Stombaugh said the park is one of the few things for kids to do.

    “When I heard about it, I was truthfully a little skeptical myself, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” she said.

Email Jayne Gest at jayne.gest@doverpost.com