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Berkeley County BMX/Skatepark opening

December 01, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The bikers were doing 180s, 360s and turndowns on the bank ramps and quarter pipes. The skateboards were rolling up the wedge, the launch ramp and the grind rail, doing ollies, kick flips and indies.

They numbered eight or 10. It was hard to tell as they pedaled and scootered up, down and over the obstacles at the new $100,000 Berkeley County BMX/Skatepark that was dedicated Tuesday night.

The 6,100-square-foot former apple cold-storage warehouse at 39 Kelly Island Road opens Wednesday at 5 p.m. for the area's BMXers and skateboarders. Organizers say it's the first indoor facility of its kind within 75 miles.

The closest is in Baltimore, said Steve Catlett, executive director of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks and Recreation Board.

The warehouse is owned by Roach Energy, which still leases part of the building for cold storage of apples.

According to a sign on the wall, money to build the park came from Beth Jacob Synagogue and the Jewish community. Catlett said when the local synagogue "dissolved," its members decided to donate its surplus funds to area groups. The parks and recreation department received nearly $135,000, the biggest chunk of which went into the BMX/Skatepark.

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"It cost $60,000 just for the ramps and jumps," said Ted Morgan, a parks board member.

"This stuff is expensive, but it's better than plywood, it's safer and lasts longer. Kids have needed this for a long time," he said. "They had to use parking lots, sidewalks and curbs. This is indoors and out of the weather."

Catlett said city police frequently chased skateboarders out of parks and off the streets with the admonition: "'You can't skate here. Take your board and go.' Well now, we have a solution."

He puts the cost of running the park at around $3,000 a month, including $1,000 for rent, salaries of two employees whenever it's open and utilities. He's also optimistic that enough bikers and boarders will use the park at $5 a day to make it pay for itself.

Setting up the park on Kelly Island Road was serendipitous for Tim Parker, 50. He just happens to own the 180 Skate Shop directly across W.Va. 9 at 176 Hack Wilson Way. The shop sells skateboards, parts and equipment, shoes, helmets and pads.

The average age of his customers is 14, but some are as young as 6; others are 40 and older, he said.

The average price of a new skateboard is $150.

Also present for Tuesday's dedication ceremony was Jamie Hess, 35, owner of Groove Merchants, a BMX (Bicycle Motocross) specialty shop in Martinsburg, where an average-priced, 20-inch BMX bike costs $400.

His typical customer is 17 or 18 years old, he said, but some are as young as 5 and some are older than 40.

The first sanctioned BMX race was in California in 1973, Hess said.   

For hours of operation, rules and other information about BMX/SkatePark, log onto the recreation board's Web site at www.mbcparks-rec.org/skatepark.html.

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