Berlin Parks Commission, Nonprofit Discuss Skate Park

Berlin Parks Commission, Nonprofit Discuss Skate Park
Salisbury resident James Parrigin explained the effort behind that city's skate park to residents and members of the parks commission. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN – Dozens of people attended a Berlin Parks Commission meeting this week to show support for a skate park in Berlin.

Representatives of We Heart Berlin, the nonprofit pushing for a skate park, and local skating enthusiasts met with the Berlin Parks Commission Tuesday to share their vision for a skateboarding facility in Berlin. The nonprofit is currently interviewing potential design firms.

“We’re taking baby steps,” said Tony Weeg, founder of We Heart Berlin.

Last month, elected officials asked the parks commission to put together some steps that would help the skate park long advocated for by We Heart Berlin become a reality. Weeg and other supporters attended this week’s commission meeting, held at Henry Park, to review what the nonprofit has accomplished so far and to discuss potential locations. While Weeg proposed Henry Park as a potential location some time ago, he said this week that We Heart Berlin was going to work with whatever design firm it selected to review various locations throughout town.

James Parrigin, a Salisbury resident who helped with development of the skate park there, said he was impressed with all of the dialogue surrounding the project in Berlin. He recommended the town stay flexible and recounted how Salisbury had to find a new location for its park after the initial space was ruled out because of a conservation project. He said that as We Heart Berlin proposed, Salisbury had built its park in stages.

“It’s kind of daunting when you think about total cost, but it didn’t happen all at once,” he said.

When asked about what the park in Salisbury cost as far as upkeep, Parrigin said it wasn’t a line item in the city’s budget. He noted that in the winter, kids were often out there shoveling snow and that the small amount of patching that had been done had been done by those who used the park. As far as video surveillance, he said that while the city had initially wanted that, it was not part of the park because of a lack of internet connectivity in the area. Councilwoman Shaneka Nichols, one of roughly 30 people in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting, said her concern was the neighbors of whatever site was selected.

“Truly make sure you’re doing your due diligence when you’re selecting the spots,” she said, adding that neighbors would be the most impacted. “Take their thoughts into consideration.”

Commission member Laura Stearns said she and her peers supported the idea of a skate park but that deciding on a location would be the issue, particularly since one potential location—Heron Park—could be sold by the town.

Commission member Bruce Hyder said he’d chatted with kids at Henry Park recently. When he asked what they thought might be a good addition to the property, they suggested a practice football field.

Weeg stressed that a variety of spaces would be considered, including town parks as well as, for example, the town’s vacant lot on Flower Street.

“I think the best thing for us to do is engage with the right company that’ll help us,” he said.

We Heart Berlin’s Tom Simon said there were plenty of skate park designs that incorporated other elements that could be used by the community.

“Any design could include other things,” Weeg said.

We Heart Berlin’s Adrian Bowen said that at Henry Park, the large grassy space could theoretically fit a skate park and a small practice field.

“The usage of it would probably be endless,” he said, adding that he considered anything that kept kids busy and out of trouble a benefit to the town.

Councilman Jay Knerr asked if We Heart Berlin was talking about a skate park or a pump track. Weeg said he was envisioning both, as the first phase of the park would be a pump track, which can be used by skateboards, bikes or scooters, while later stages would include elements of street skating. He said a pump track was typically the first step for skateboarders, as it helped them learn the sport.

“It’s a wheeled toy park is really what it is,” Weeg said.

Simon agreed.

“It’s like an action sports park,” he said, adding that currently, We Heart Berlin envisioned stormwater management and a pump track as the first phase of a Berlin skate park.

Weeg said that nothing had been finalized yet and that if input from the community showed that people didn’t want a pump track, that could be eliminated from the park design.

“That’ll all be determined in a design session,” he said.

Councilman Jack Orris said he felt stormwater management should play a key part in location selection, as the town already experienced flooding. He also reiterated Nichols’ suggestion that neighbors be well involved in the process.

Weeg said that for now, We Heart Berlin would continue interviewing design firms to determine which one would be a good fit for Berlin. He expects it will cost the nonprofit $10,000 for a design that can be submitted to a construction company so that the park can actually be built. He said We Heart Berlin would be pursuing grants and doing fundraising to bring the project to fruition.

“We don’t expect a single dime from the Town of Berlin,” he said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.