Neighbors rail against skate park

  • Thursday, February 7, 2013

Melinda Dingle thinks these woods, on lots she owns and a cousin owns, will make tempting restrooms and trash bins for people using the skateboard park. LESLIE CANTU/JOURNAL SCENE

 Residents of a small neighborhood tucked into the shadow of Memorial Stadium are hoping the town will change its mind about locating a skateboard park near them, but Summerville officials say the park plan is set.
“We’re citizens. We pay taxes like everybody else,” said Melinda Dingle. Other neighborhoods have shot down plans to locate skateboard parks in their areas, yet when she and her neighbors expressed the same concerns about traffic, noise, trash and vandalism, no one listened, she said.
“They’re saying there’s not many votes (in this neighborhood) to lose,” she said.
Mayor Bill Collins, who confirmed Wednesday the park is on track for construction, said the town must provide outlets for residents of all age groups, and this will give many young people somewhere to go.
The park is “nowhere near a house,” he said. “I don’t think they’ll even know it’s there.”
The park is planned for a triangular parcel bordered by Richland Street, Magnolia Street and the Berlin G. Myers Parkway.
Besides, Collins said, if they can live with the noise of thousands of football fans, then a small skateboard park shouldn’t faze them.
But that’s exactly the point, residents said.
They moved there knowing the stadium was there, but the fact is that they deal with the noise and traffic of the stadium and three schools – Spann Elementary, Summerville Elementary and Rollings Middle School of the Arts.
It’s unfair to add yet another public facility to the small area, they said.
The garbage after games is horrible, said R.D. Maner-Praileau.
Georgana Campbell said the effects of the skateboard park won’t be limited to its actual location.
Kids will be skateboarding down Richland Street to get there, adding to the danger of the street and potential litter, she said.
The neighborhood has asked for speed bumps to slow down drivers cutting through from the parkway to Main Street, Campbell and Dingle said.
The town pleads poverty when the neighborhood asks for those improvements, yet it has the money to build a skate park, Dingle said.
Many people in the neighborhood have deep Summerville roots.
Campbell was born and raised in the neighborhood and lives there still.
“We’ve been here. We’re the old people of Summerville,” she said.
Dingle’s house on Richland Street sits on land given to her as a wedding gift. Her great-great-great grandfather had a house on the land, she said.
She owns the wooded lot next to her house, and adjacent to that is a wooded lot owned by a cousin. She thinks those woods will prove an obvious restroom in the eyes of skateboarders at the park, which is planned without restroom facilities, and she thinks they’ll leave empty drink bottles behind, as the park won’t have drinking fountains.
Given that residents of other areas were able to stop the park from going into their neighborhoods, it begins to look like a racial issue that the town finally decided to place it in a black neighborhood, Dingle said.
The idea of a skateboard park has been floated for some time, but Summerville began seriously considering it last year. 
The town settled on a triangular parcel near Spann Elementary that was owned by the school district.
Skateboarders raised money to defray the cost of building a park, but most of the estimated $50,000 cost will be paid with municipal park impact fees.
Parks & Recreation Manager Doyle Best said construction could begin this month. Once construction begins, the park should be completed fairly quickly, so he hopes it will be open by the summer.

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