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Town split over skateboard facility in park

November 28, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - On one hand, some people feel the facility could be properly managed and are supportive of the recreation opportunities it would provide for youths.

On the other hand, nearby residents dread the thought of a skateboard park in their neighborhood, fearing it will result in noise problems, attract older youths from outside the Charles Town area and possibly lead to a resurgence of drug problems that plagued the park in the 1990s.

"I don't think anyone would want to listen to that type of noise and youth," said Nancy Schaffer of 504 W. Liberty St.

For the last several years, there has been an effort to expand the recreational opportunities available to local youths by developing a skateboard facility in Evitts Run Park, a small, city-owned park at the intersection of Water and West Liberty streets.

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To fund construction of the skateboard facility, which will feature a series of steep, swooping inclines on which skateboarders can ride, the city received money through the West Virginia Water and Conservation Fund. It was unclear among council members on Sunday how much was obtained.

The proposal calls for erecting the skating facility on the park's old tennis courts, which are deteriorating, said Charles Town City Council member Matt Ward.

Although some families of area youths have pushed for the skateboard park, other city residents are opposing it because of fears that it could change the makeup of the neighborhood around the park.

Schaffer said she is worried about noise that could be generated by skateboard riders, bright lighting used to illuminate the park and litter.

Schaffer said such a facility needs to be in a more spacious area where other attractions such as baseball fields and a swimming pool can be offered, and not "plopped on a tennis court" in a residential area.

Kathryn Newcomb of 110 Higgs Blvd. has lived in the neighborhood since 1983 and remembers the drug activity that used to exist in the small park, which is centered around a stream.

Newcomb fears a skateboarding park could cause drug trafficking to return.

About nine years ago, drug dealing was so bad in Evitts Run Park that police had to clear out the drug traffickers so children could attend special events there, city police said.

It was a culmination of a drug trafficking problem that plagued the town for years, although city officials said the problem was eradicated when the Charles Town Police Department had its forces beefed up and a federal Drug Enforcement Agency investigation resulted in 22 arrests.

Jeff Roth is a local parent who supports the skateboard park. Although Roth, of South Samuel Street, likes what the facility would offer youth, he does not want to see it constructed, then forgotten.

Roth said he also thinks a helmet rule should be enforced at the park, which would help keep out youths who are "too cool" to wear a helmet.

Ward said he likes the idea of the skateboarding park and thinks it can be managed properly if there are clear rules about behavior allowed at the facility. Ward said he also thinks there are enough resources between the city and parents of skateboarders to properly supervise the park.

Ward said it is unclear whether the council needs to take any further action on the skateboard park, but council member Donald Clendening said he does not think the issue is over.

Clendening said he thinks the council will have to make a final vote on whether it wants to build the facility at Evitt's Run Park.

Clendening said he can sympathize with the concerns of people living near the park and thinks there are alternative locations for the skateboarding facility, such as the so-called "Maytag lot" just north of Evitt's Run Park.

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