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Roanoke council adds a skatepark to its long-range parks plan

Roanoke council adds a skatepark to its long-range parks plan

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The Roanoke City Council unanimously approved a new parks and recreation master plan Monday that now includes a skatepark but still lacks a concrete plan to fund it.

The plan, developed by Indiana-based PROS Consulting based on research including a statistically valid survey, initially did not include a skatepark because comments from residents didn’t make it a priority.

But proponents, including a nonprofit that already has raised thousands of dollars for a park, decried the omission and at a council meeting last month swayed council members into calling for the park’s inclusion.

The revised plan now includes a skatepark in a list of projects targeted for five to 10 years in the future and gives details, including that funding is expected to be largely from private sources with possible matching funds from the city government, City Manager Bob Cowell explained.

A feasibility study that recommended a three-phase, $1.5 million project for Wasena Park next to the Main Street bridge was added to the plan as an addendum.

The plan’s top priorities are renovation and expansion of the city’s recreation centers and pools, both items in the realm of deferred maintenance. Continuing to build the city’s greenway trails and improve access to them also top the list.

“I think we’ve taken the first step,” said Vice Mayor Joe Cobb, a vocal friend of the skatepark idea. “The next step is to dedicate land and dedicate funding.”

“I’m excited,” said Councilwoman Michelle Davis, another advocate for adding a skatepark to the plan. “I don’t think this is the ultimate answer.”

She praised the calm, respectful and determined advocacy of the nonprofit Roanoke Skatepark Initiative. The group said the skatepark not only would be a mark of Roanoke’s image as a progressive and outdoors friendly city, but a community gathering place and a creative and healthy outlet for kids who skateboard.

“There’s a lot of movement because of the work you all have done,” Davis told them.

Five members of the group spoke at Monday’s meeting, all thanking the city for listening to their plea, and especially thanking Parks and Recreation Director Michael Clark for working with them for nearly two years.

Members of the group asked the city to go a step further and pledge a site and a funding match for the skatepark, which would bolster their ability to raise money from private donors and foundation grants.

But inclusion of the skatepark in the plan would by itself aid in that effort. Its exclusion, they said, would have crippled their efforts.

“We feel like we’re halfway up the hill, but we’re excited for their willingness to work with us,” said Keri Garnett, one of the group’s leaders. A skatepark “feels more possible” now, she said. Now the group can turn to raising money.

Another of the group’s leaders, William Sellari, asked the city also to find a way to create temporary mini skateparks around the city.

The city’s skatepark in Wasena Park beneath the Wasena Bridge, which is already crumbling, will be demolished entirely when work begins in the next couple of years on the bridge replacement. That will leave the city with no skate facilities at all.

Cowell said in about a year the city will be considering how to repurpose basketball courts and tennis courts in parks across the city, and he promised small-scale skateboard facilities would be among the options considered.

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