When the city of Aiken recently announced that the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center had permanently closed its skatepark due to low participation, it was unwelcome news for those who have long pushed for a new skatepark in the Garden City.
It has been almost five years since the city tore down Augusta’s former skatepark on Damascus Road. The skatepark, which was originally built by the city’s recreation department in 2001 with a $10,000 grant and some additional donations from the public, was plagued with problems from the very beginning.
It was constructed with wooden ramps on a plot of land with a downhill slope that made it difficult for skaters to control their momentum.
Not a good situation.
As the ramps began to deteriorate, the city brought in inexperienced inmate labor to make repairs.
Nothing like prisoners to get the job done.
The lack of proper maintenance ultimately doomed the park.
Finally, after almost eight years of what the recreation department described as “low public participation,” the city closed the skatepark in 2008 because it feared the park was becoming a public hazard.
Soon after, a crew demolished the park and the city announced they had no plans to construct a new one.
But local skateboarders continued to try and convince city leaders to help build a new in-ground, concrete skatepark, which was estimated to cost between $200,000 to $400,000.
Several years ago, City Administrator Fred Russell even discussed with local skaters the possibility of constructing a skatepark next to the existing BMX track near Lake Olmstead.
However, since many city leaders believe there was not much public participation in the former skatepark on Damascus Road, there was never any political support for addition funding for a new park from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).
The city’s recreation department would frequently request funding for a quality skatepark during its SPLOST proposals, but as soon the commissioners started cutting, the skatepark was the first thing to go.
Now that Aiken is shutting down its skatepark due to lack of participation, that can only hurt Augusta’s argument that the city needs one.
According to a recent article in <<IT>>The Aiken Standard<<IT>>, Odell Weeks’ skate park “averaged about seven to 10 people per week, totaling roughly 1,500 guests per year.”
The skatepark was apparently costing Aiken too much money and its parts are now going to be sold off.
Another sad ending to a local skatepark.
But not everyone has given up on future skateparks.
For the past several years, Columbia County has been moving towards developing a new, state-of-the-art BMX and skatepark at Blanchard Woods Park in Evans.
Apparently, the construction bids have recently come back and the county is reviewing them with plans to possibly start construction early next year.
Who would have thought that Columbia County would be leading the way when it comes to extreme urban sports?