CENTREVILLE — At a recent Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting, the meeting hall was packed with parents and their children showing interest and asking the county to have a new skateboard park built in the county. Parks & Rec Director Steve Chandlee welcomed all who attended the presentation, which lasted approximately 30 minutes.
The first to speak with Dylan Cannon, 14, of Stevensville. Dylan will be a freshman entering Kent Island High School this fall. Dylan pointed out the obvious, “There’s not much for us to do here, unless you’re into organized team sports, and for some us, we’re not! We have other interests. If you want to skateboard, your parents have to drive you to one of two places, each in opposite directions.” Dylan indicated that there’s a skateboard park near Ridgely in Caroline County, and there’s another in Bowie, both which can take can take up to 40 minutes to get to. With the price of gasoline, that’s a luxury many families cannot afford. Dylan closed his presentation by telling everyone present that “commissioner Phil Dumenil told him he endorses this effort for a skateboard park.”
Violet Baudean, 13, this year going into Stevensville Middle School as an eighth grader, also spoke. “I started an online petition in April in support of creating a skateboard park here in the county,” Violet said. “As of Monday, July 18, over 1,300 people had signed it.”
Two weeks later, on Aug. 1, following the youth’s presentation over 1,600 have joined the petition.
Violet said she’d only begun skateboarding this past February, “And I love it. It’s provided me an opportunity to get outside, do something physical, and has improved my mental health. It helps relieve stress and I’ve become more social, meeting and making new friends. I’ve found skateboarding to be a super cool thing to do. I’m a happier person.”
Several other youth and a few parents spoke in favor of creating a skateboard park, providing pictures of layouts of skateboard parks that already exist in other locations around the state. Parent Heather Bacher presented the visuals of skateboard parks they’d like to see considered. Her son Ryan Smith also spoke, pointing out again, “There’s not enough to do on Kent Island for kids.”
Kristin Weed, who founded the Kent Island Beach Clean-Ups organization, 13-year old son, Evan, is a skateboarder. She added, “Kids need something else to do. Whenever we have a beach clean event, I constantly hear that from other parents.”
Owners of Central Skate Supply in Ridgely, Billy Peterson and Gennie Woo also spoke. Woo said, “70% of the kids that come to us are from Queen Anne’s County — that’s 70%. The interest is here in this county.” She was also quick to point out that there are inappropriate places to skateboard; sidewalks, parking lots, and business places. Skateboard parks are safer. If there is a real interest, and the kids are going to do skateboarding, give them a place to skate.”
Peterson added, “Skateboarding is not just for kids. There are adults who do it too. I’ve seen some people in their 50s skateboarding.”
Chandlee confirmed Peterson’s statement, noting “My 22-year son who resides in Annapolis skateboards. He’s the one that informed me that there was a petition out there to support a skateboard park in Queen Anne’s County.”
Former Centreville Town Councilman Tim McCluskey was also present at the meeting. He too spoke in support of creating a skateboard park. He said, “When I was growing up, I was never very good at team sports. I was good at skateboarding. I hope the county can find money to build a skateboard park here in the county in next year’s budget.”
After everyone had an opportunity to speak, Chandlee stated bluntly that “locating a skateboard facility at Love Point Park is not going to be a possibility.”
Chandlee said there is simply no space for a park there. Adding that they already don’t have enough fields at Love Point Park.
“Going forward, the place that might be open for such a skateboard park is at Batts Neck Park. That could be a consideration at some point in the process,” he concluded.
It was brought up in the meeting that Queen Anne’s County did have a skateboard park 20-years ago. Former commissioner John McQueeney, who served with commissioners George O’Donnell and Marlene Davis (when the commission had only three commissioners), voted to approve a park then.
McQueeney, who was not at the meeting, was interviewed over the phone. He said, “I remember meeting with nearly 100 kids at the Kent Island Free Library. The kids had a plan for what they wanted and told me what they planned to do with it. I was all for it! Anything for the kids.” However, it didn’t take long for what had been started with great optimism to turn sour. McQueeney added, “It became a nightmare. It seemed that after the kids went across the ramps and jumps a few times, they became bored. The ramps and jumps had been screwed down so they wouldn’t move. Some of the kids moved the jumps around to change the course. Once that happened, the warranty immediately was voided. We had to pay lots of money to have the ramps and jumps put back in place and secured. Then, someone climbed over the very high fence we had around the park and vandalized it. That was the end of the park. We couldn’t afford to keep going back and fixing it.”
“I felt bad about it,” he said. “I’m sure it wasn’t the kids who had first talked to me about having the park who did the vandalism. But you know, it only takes a few bad apples to ruin it for everyone else. I’d have to see what’s going on at these other places to become a proponent for a skateboard park again. Someone would have to show me things have changed before I could support it again.”
In an interview after the meeting, Chandlee said he couldn’t be more direct in setting a date for when they might be able to support a skateboard park, “Here’s why; first, we have no current funding source for such a project; second, we have no design for a skateboard park which would give us an idea of initial costs; and third, we have no designated site yet. For me to tell people, ‘Oh, we can have it done by this date’, without having answers to those three things, would be a disservice to everyone, and I would lose credibility as director.”
“There is a process we have to go through, and it takes time. If we do this, we want to do it right,” he said.
One of the adults attending, Mike Vakas, said, “We’re ready to go to get this done, now!”
Chandlee complimented the kids who spoke at the meeting, “All of the youth speakers did really good with their presentations. They should all be commended.”
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