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Skate park design is in the works

July 17, 2006|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Getting a skate park in Berkeley Springs has been a long process, but it looks as though there could be a park built as early as next spring.

Local artist and skateboarder Jennie McBee, an avid supporter and member of the Berkeley Springs Bike & Skate (BS2) group, said the preliminary design is being done by Nate Wessel, a renowned skate park designer.

The BS2 group was organized a few years ago and "is youth in action to get what they want with adult leadership," McBee said. There are about eight youths and two adults in the BS2 group and they formed a bridge with Morgan County Parks & Recreation. McBee has been a member for three years.

A skate park has been the group's "dream, plan and passion," McBee said.

Last August, the Morgan County Board of Education donated 2 1/2 acres of land, which was the playground field at the old North Berkeley Elementary School, to Parks & Recreation. The Board of Education office is housed in the old school building.

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Bob Banks, acting director, said Parks & Recreation is providing the land for the skate park and will pay the yearly $2,500 general liability insurance.

"The skate park is a great idea," Banks said. "I like the way it's laid out and Nate Wessel has a lot of good ideas." He said the park might have to be built in phases, and it will be determined by how much comes from local volunteers with labor and/or materials.

Some local companies have already made commitments to help build the skate park, McBee said.

Ramps will be included in the design, as well as a street course for skateboarding and BMX (bicycle motocross). A wooden surface will be used because it is safer, and a product made of many layers of pressurized paper called Skatelite Pro will go on top for "extreme durability," she said.

McBee said about $36,000 has been raised to fund the park, of which $26,500 is grant funded, she said.

Susan Webster, Town of Bath mayor, said the town administers the funding received for the skate park project. She said the Town of Bath is very supportive and Bath Police Chief Tony Lynch has a good rapport with the youth in the community.

"I am so impressed with the youth in the community. I admire their tenacity to stick with this project and all the legwork they did to bring this about," she said. They are learning how to get things done, Webster said.

Kevin Wurster, 17, is a Berkeley High School senior and BS2 group member. "We worked for a long time" on this skate park project. "It's exciting because all of a sudden everything is coming together," he said.

Things started to happen after the yearly skateboarding "Blender Event" started, Wurster said.

The first one three years ago was held at Widmyer Elementary School in Berkeley Springs and the last two years at the high school. This all-day event features skateboarding and BMX, "which are stunts or tricks on a BMX bike," he said.

The name, "Blender," was chosen because it is a blend of all ages, Wurster said.

Wurster also plays the trumpet and is interested in engineering, but he's not sure where he wants to go to college. He is a member of the Berkeley Springs Boy Scouts Troop 12 and will receive his Eagle award soon, he said.

Individualists and thrill seekers have been associated with the sport, but it can be fun for everybody, McBee said.

"It is a much better workout than you can get in any gym. You use muscles, it's good cardio and you learn how to balance, coordination, and it's strength building. It's a great stress reliever," she said.

"Athletes use skateboarding for cross training. People are learning that skateboarding is a good workout for everybody."

McBee began skateboarding at 13 in upstate New York, she said, and all the skateboarding kids in the region rallied to get a skate park built in Plattsburgh, N.Y., about 30 miles away.

McBee raised about $900 last month when she skated more than 12 miles along the C&O Canal, using the paved Western Maryland Rail Trail.

"We have been building bridges, contacts and allies in the community and also educating the community of a positive affect here for our youth and many adults who enjoy skating," McBee said.

The design is not complete but is expected soon, she said. "We are at the crest of the wave," McBee said.

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