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Charles Town skate park sets riders free

July 07, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- The Bon Jovi song "Wanted Dead or Alive" blasts from a black Ford Mustang.

Skateboard riders mouth the song's lyrics as the pounding sound of skateboards hitting ramps echoes across the park Sunday afternoon.

Since March, the Charles Town Skate Park off North West Street has been a refuge for skateboard riders.

Before the park was built, skateboard riders took to the streets, loading docks or anyplace else they could find to ride, police and riders said.

It worried police and others who said the riders sometimes startled downtown pedestrians and they worried about riders getting hurt in town traffic.

To set the riders free, city officials pursued a skateboard park.

A facility made up of ramps, rails and other features designed to let riders do their tricks was designed and the facility cost $120,000 to construct, according to Charles Town City Council member Ann Paonessa.

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The skate park is at the rear of a large parking lot off the intersection of North West Street and North Street which used to be owned by Maytag Corp. The city now owns the lot.

Half of the cost of the facility was paid for through grants and other money came from contributions, Paonessa said.

Among the other funding sources was $6,000 secured by Del. Locke Wysong, D-Jefferson, and $5,000 from Arcadia Development, Paonessa said.

The skate park is dwarfed by the size of the parking lot, but riders are not complaining about its size.

They're thankful for a place specifically set aside for skateboarding.

"You don't have to worry about getting arrested. You don't have to worry about having your board being taken," said Scott Ayers, of Charles Town, who was among about a dozen youths riding at the park Sunday afternoon.

The park offers a maze of ramps for riders to zip up and down. Most adults would probably cringe about the thought of riding on other features in the park - like stairs, railings and a mock picnic table - but it's a rider's dream.

Skaters ride at their own risk.

A sign next to the ramps lists rules of the park, including that it is open most daylight hours.

The sign says skateboard riding can result in death but that the city is not responsible for what happens there.

Protective gear like helmets are "strongly recommended," although no riders were wearing them Sunday.

Ayers and his friend C.J. Leslie said the atmosphere is good at the park. Any age rider is welcome among regulars at the park and everyone is like a "band of brothers" who ride together and look out for each other when someone falls, Ayers said.

"It's like a big family out here," Ayers said.

"It's pretty much a group of skaters having fun every day," said Leslie, of Charles Town.

Paonessa said there has been no major incidents at the park although some West Street area residents complained about noise. Those issues seemed to be worked out by having police close the facility in the evenings, Paonessa said.

That seems to have an effect of getting youths to leave the area for the night, Paonessa said.

Charles Town Police Chief Barry Subelsky said there have been no major problems at the park. Subelsky said he likes the park because it keeps riders off city streets and away from pedestrians.

Some problems arise periodically when "non-skaters" go to the park and when "somebody is getting in somebody's way deliberately," Subelsky said.

Subelsky said the department's officers aggressively patrol the area to prevent problems.

"I go down a couple, three times a day," Subelsky said.

Parents sometimes park their cars and watch their kids skate at the park.

"I'm glad somebody opened a skate park," White Hall, Va., resident Greg Coffman said while watching his son, Ian, skate Sunday.

Coffman said he lives near Winchester, Va., but he has not found any facility there.

"It's a nice park. I hope they can maintain it and keep it open for a while," said Coffman, adding his son has been to the park four or five times.

Robert Kerns, who lives at 210 N. West St., next to the entrance to the park, said he is glad the city built the facility for youths.

"They don't have enough to keep them occupied," Kerns said.

The only issue Kerns said he has been concerned about is large numbers of skaters walking up the middle of the street after leaving the park.

Kerns said he is concerned about someone getting injured in traffic.

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