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Support for Stafford skate park ramps up

Nick Patterson descends a rail while his friends look on at the St. Clair Brooks Memorial Park skate park. Patterson’s father, Donald, is leading an effort to get a new skate park opened in the county. They’ve gotten 800 signatures on a Change.org petition, and they’ve had preliminary talks with the parks and recreation commission in Stafford. / Photos by Peter Cihelka

Like many athletic teens, Nick Patterson practices every afternoon at one of Stafford County’s parks.

But the 16-year-old doesn’t have a coach or teammates, and the sport isn’t through his school or a club.

Nick is a skateboarder, a former football player who decided his passion was on wheels, not in cleats.

And when dad Donald Patterson says Nick is pretty good, he doesn’t think he’s just passing along the requisite parental compliment.

But the skateboarding area in St. Clair Brooks Park, with its warped wooden structures that could pose hazards, isn’t ideal, they say.

Nick Patterson catches air off a rail while skateboarding at the St. Clair Brooks Memorial Park skate park.

“There’s enough there—you just get creative and move things around,” said Nick, who is there most afternoons with friends.

Nick, who’s not quite sure what he wants to do in the future, has aspirations to one day be a sponsored skateboarder and maybe even go pro.

And Donald and Annette Patterson, who moved from Oceanside, Calif.—where skaters and sun prevailed—to Stafford in 2007, don’t think that the individualistic aspect of the sport means skateboarders deserve sub-par facilities.

Donald Patterson, a retired Marine who often chauffeurs Nick to parks around the state on weekends, has organized a campaign to build a professional skate park in Stafford—perhaps by revamping the existing space at Brooks Park.

After getting more than 800 signatures on a Change.org petition, plans are moving forward.

Fredericksburg Skate Park LLC, which is filing for tax-exempt nonprofit status, calls for a “decent-sized” skate park with “a little bit of everything,” similar to the 1-year-old, $1 million park in Fairfax.

“It’s out of this world what some of these communities have done,” Patterson said.

Skateboarding isn’t just about fun, Patterson says. The father of three said it’s an opportunity for kids to exercise, be outside and develop personal and professional relationships.

“It’ll get kids out of downtown and not bumping into people, and get them somewhere safe, practicing their hobby and their sport,” Patterson said.

COUNTY IS INTERESTED

Stafford already has two skateboarding areas, at St. Clair Brooks Park on Butler Road and Curtis Memorial Park in Hartwood.

Ramps at the 3,000-square-foot skate area at Curtis Park were built in 1996, and they’ve been rebuilt several times over the years. Newer additions include boxes, wedges, rails, three-quarter pipes and a half-pipe ramp. The county hosts a skate camp here.

Unsafe ramps and a wooden bowl that had been built in the mid-1990s at Brooks Park were removed when Stafford County acquired the park. In 2010, the county installed a rail wedge flat and jersey wall for $10,000. Repairs to the largest ramp were made last year.

While skate parks have been discussed in the past, they were also identified as a lower priority among county projects, based on a survey of residents.

Improvements to both existing parks are included in the county’s long-term infrastructure plan.

“We are always interested in hearing ways to partner with our patrons to improve our parks and programs,” said Jamie Porter, director of Stafford Parks, Recreation & Community Facilities.

Patterson recently presented his preliminary ideas to Stafford’s commission that oversees parks, and is now working on a full proposal.

Heidi Simpson, a representative on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission, said the county is interested in pursuing opportunities for Stafford.

“I think certainly the county’s open to listening and working with the group,” Simpson said, noting that everybody wants different types of park and recreation options. And because of rapid growth, those haven’t kept pace over the years.

The commission makes recommendations to the Board of Supervisors, which controls the purse strings.

PAYING FOR A PARK

Of course, skate parks don’t come cheap.

The 15,000-square-foot concrete park at Lake Fairfax Park in Reston cost $1 million, funded through a citizen-approved parks bond. It opened in October 2012, and features a “street plaza” with benches, stairs, curbs, rails and ramps, as well as a concrete bowl.

The skateboard area at Culpeper’s Yowell Meadow Park was renovated this fall.

The $100,000 project included redesigned cement ramps to replace 12-year-old wooden ones that were repeatedly flooded. The new ones should last about 50 years, and are more attractive. Handrails were added to the two taller ramps and a small practice area was also constructed.

Mark Eyestone, who owns Magic Bullet Records and Skateboards in downtown Fredericksburg, said the population of skaters in the area is larger than people think and those skaters could use another park.

“If it’s able to sustain a small little shop, there’s enough people to sustain a park,” Eyestone said. “As much as this area is growing, it still has the fewest number—it does not have as many concrete parks as areas that are even less developed.”

He submitted petitions to the Fredericksburg City Council a few times over the years, and hopes the Pattersons may get more traction.

Donald Patterson is proposing a private–public venture, and hopes the county or state could offer help. He estimates a decent park could cost around $500,000.

Patterson has also thought about offsetting that price tag. Just like with other sports, tournaments and competitions could bring visitors—and their money—into Stafford.

He’s brainstorming fundraisers for the coming year, and hopes to get attention from the pros.

If the county agrees on the need for a skate park, Patterson hopes an experienced skate park designer and builder would be hired and that kids could be involved in the design process.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

Contact the Fredericksburg Skatepark Project through email: fredericksburgskate@gmail.com, go the fredsk8.org website, or search Facebook for “A Skatepark For Fredericksburg, VA.”

 

Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975

kthisdell@freelancestar.com

 

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