New life for controversial skate park

Posted at 6:56 PM, Feb 15, 2012
and last updated 2012-02-28 17:40:37-05

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR)-  A funny thing happened at what was predicted to be a contentious meeting Wednesday night between skateboarders and residents who live Fonticello Park in South Richmond.

The issue: a renegade skateboard park that enthusiasts built on a little-used tennis court in the park at 28th and Bainbridge streets. The city had already forced the removal of larger ramps and quarter pipes that had mushroomed there, and there was concern that the remaining smaller ramps were a menace.

Some neighbors were concerned about trash, noise and other violations of park rules.

So officials  had demanded the rest of the renegade ramps be gone by Wednesday, a frustration and a mystery for skaters, since most cities and towns have skate parks – except for Richmond.

But skaters and those who live near and use the park came together before the meeting called by city park officials.

They came Wednesday night with a plan – a reprieve for at least a month for the current park and a desire to build a real skate park further into Fonticello, away from houses and traffic. They also agreed that the park bathrooms remain open or portable toilets be set up, along with new signage pointing out rules of behavior for the skate park.

The city’s new parks and recreation director, Dr. Norman C. Merrifield, had already met with the interested parties and, at the meeting, agreed to moving forward with the compromise plan –  and even extended the reprieve period even longer, up to three months. His comments about a new era for the park were greeted with applause in the crowded Roundhouse meeting hall.

A member of the current friends of the Fonticello Park group pledged support to the new wave of residents interested in bolstering the group and improving the park. She also said there’s $7,000 in the group’s account that could help build the new skate park.

Conversations surrounding the issue indicated the renegade skate park has been a mixed blessing. While there has been more noise and trash and after dark-skating, the skate park has seemed to fuel new interest and use of Fonticello.