“I’ve been with the city for five years and we’ve been actually talking about a skate park for that entire time,” Portsmouth Community Development Director Jennifer Hanlon said. “We had some meetings maybe four years ago with some kids and adults in the community, and there’s definitely a large enough interest — as you can probably see by the kids who are up and down town on their skateboards all the time.”
Portsmouth has reportedly asked the state for a total of $32.4 million in stimulus money for various city projects — including $800,000 to install a 10,000 square foot skate park.
“I’ve been skating since I was nine, and we’ve been trying for years to get a skate park down here but it never happens,” said Shawn Fisher, owner of the Grind House Tattoo and Skate Shop on Chillicothe Street, in Portsmouth. He also participated in the meeting with the city four years ago. “It seems like everyone wants to promise the kids a skate park, but when it comes down to actually building it, nobody’s doing it.”
If the state approves the city’s request, skaters may finally get their wish.
Hanlon said the city has already set aside $25,000 for its 2008 capital improvement project fund to help secure a design build company. She said the city hopes to hire a design firm this year, and is currently looking for land to build the park.
“We’ve talked about Mound Park. We’ve also talked about down here by Spartan Stadium, because there’s some property we own and the schools own that we might be able to use,” Hanlon said.
If approved, the park could incorporate elements and obstacles for skaters of all levels and all ages — rails and mounds for young skaters, and in-ground ramps for the more experienced skaters. Hanlon said the city would form a committee that would include local skaters to help design the Portsmouth Skate Park.
Hanlon described her vision of the “perfect skate park” with green spaces, seating for exhibitions, and an area for music performances. Fisher called the project “long overdue” and said he would welcome the opportunity to participate in the park’s planning and design.
“In other communities, if you do have a large group of skateboarders, they might get a little organized and want to bring in bands and events at the skate park. So that’s sort of the thought — to make sure that location has that ability as well,” Hanlon said.
Hanlon said this creates a much needed outlet for young people in Portsmouth.
“I love what the skateboard shop has been able to do on the one vacant lot, but I think we have to get them where they can be more organized and put together events themselves. They could put on exhibitions and really show the community that they’re not the stereotypical kids people think they are. They’re good kids from all walks of life and they’re doing things that for them is productive. It’s recreation that’s keeping them fit, and they’re definitely talented at what they do,” Hanlon said.
Fisher said a larger skate park would help accommodate the growing number of skaters he hosts on the tiny vacant lot next to his shop on Chillicothe Street.
Each year the shop hosts a skating competition with about 300 local skaters.
The Ironton Tribune reported on Friday that the City of Ironton also plans to build a $100,000 skate park at North Fourth and Etna streets, in Ironton. The city has reportedly already raise 60 percent of its goal, including a $5,000 donation from the Tony Hawk Foundation and $1,000 from the Child Welfare Club.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235. firstname.lastname@example.org