Columbia County’s skatepark suddenly hit the wall

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Columbia County’s skatepark suddenly hit the wall

Talk about speaking too soon.

A few weeks ago, the Insider praised Columbia County for its plans to develop a new state-of-the-art BMX and skatepark at Blanchard Woods Park in Evans.

The word on the street was that the construction bids had recently come back and the county was reviewing them with plans to possibly start construction early next year.

Well, not quite.

Apparently, the county received the bids and were so shocked by the amount estimated to construct the BMX track and skatepark that local leaders put the brakes on the project.

The budget for the park is $1 million. The bids were nearly double that amount.

It begs the question: Since when has skateboarding become such an elitist sport that it takes almost $2 million to build a decent facility?

Now, granted, the Blanchard Woods Park was also scheduled to include a BMX facility, but almost $2 million is a lot of dough.

Apparently, now, a committee will look at other alternatives with the hope of having a plan in place for Columbia County commissioners to vote on in the next few months.

But times are tough for skateboarders here in the CSRA.

Just a few weeks ago, the city of Aiken announced that the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center had permanently closed its skatepark due to low participation.

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.

As the ramps began to deteriorate, the city brought in inexperienced inmate labor to make repairs.

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.

And the fact that Columbia County’s skatepark was so far off budget, many local leaders may start questioning whether such parks are worth the outrageous ticket price.

So, expect more skaters trying to practice their sport at shopping centers and on downtown streets because the future isn’t looking too promising for a public skatepark in the CSRA.