March 8, 20004 — Skateboarders, rollerbladers, and BMX bikers on St. Thomas may eventually have their own skate park in Red Hook. According to Carol Ayn Mitchell, founder of Pipedream Creations Inc., land has already been surveyed for the new facility located just north of the unfinished swimming pool beside the armory. Pipedream is Mitchell's nonprofit organization spearheading the effort to bring a skate park to the island. Recently Mitchell and Pipedream's board members have been hard at work finalizing design aspects of the park and securing support — both political and financial — for the 22,000-square-foot facility.
A mother of an avid skateboarder, Mitchell says the park will be a positive influence on the island's youth. She also noted that skateboarding is a fairly inexpensive sport. "For $60 or so you can purchase a skateboard and all the safety equipment needed." Mitchell adds, "Just getting the kids off the street where they wear no helmets or other protective gear will be a good thing."
Getting the skateboarders off private property will also be a plus. And Mitchell should know. Recently the mother of one had to meet with authorities at Office Max because her son was caught skating on the company's property.
While a possible skate park will be news to most residents, Mitchell has been working on the project since October 2002, when she approached the V.I. Port Authority about building the park as an attraction next to the proposed water park. Unfortunately, Mitchell says, VIPA was "thoroughly uninterested."
In April 2003, Mitchell struck gold when she met with Housing, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Ira Hobson, who was very receptive to the project. According to Hobson, the department will lease the property in Red Hook to Pipedream during construction. Once the facility is complete, ownership of the land will revert back to the department. Hobson added that a minor CZM permit for the park has already been obtained.
While liability issues are a concern that has yet to "be worked out," Hobson says safety will be the number one priority at the park. According to Hobson, all individuals who use the park will be required to use safety equipment.
Designing the park
With no experience in skateboard park design, Mitchell decided to consult with the skateboarding community to find out exactly what they wanted. In the end, five area youths helped design the park. "These are really bright kids who knew what they wanted, so they were essentially responsible for the design," Mitchell says. The actual architect of the park will be Stacy Bourne from Innovations By Design.
According to Mitchell, the park will be a 10,000-square-foot concrete slab with modular equipment like half-pipes, quarter-pipes, pyramid boxes and grind bars. This is the first phase of construction.
The park's second phase will include a 5,000-square-foot concrete bowl, three-to-four-feet deep, and the planting of greenery around the park's border.
Mitchell intends for the park to be a multi-use facility, where dances and other events can be held. In addition, the park won't be limited exclusively to skateboarders. Mitchell says rollerbladers, BMX bikers, and laser scooters will also be allowed to use the park.
Surrounding the park will be a three-foot tall fence. "I want the look to be like an old-fashioned baseball park," Mitchell says, "with advertising on the outside." Currently Pipedream is offering area businesses the chance to advertise on the fence for five years for only $1,000.
Tremendous support for the project
Currently Mitchell and the Pipedream Board are trying to secure $146,000 — the cost to fully fund the first phase of the project. Once an initial $40,000 is raised, construction will begin with the pouring of the concrete slab. "I think the community will give more freely once they see something actually happening," Mitchell said.
So far, Mitchell says, community support has been tremendous. An area Rotary Club has expressed a keen interest in the project and several private companies have already made contributions. In addition to financial support from Margate Management, Mitchell just received a joint donation from two EDC companies, VI Microsystems and Edge Access.
Additionally, Pipedream has opened an account at St. Thomas Concrete so that individuals and businesses can donate funds for the concrete needed for the project. Mitchell notes that Zenith Construction has already donated five yards of concrete.
Aside from support from the business community, Mitchell has also enlisted the assistance of two powerful individuals: skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, who provided a grant to Pipedream, and Sen. Roosevelt David.
While Hawk's support will mean a lot to the skateboarding community, David might be more instrumental in helping the park become a reality.
Citing fond memories of taking his daughter to the skating rink, David said the park is an excellent way to get families involved in their children's activities. "It's also time we give our young people something to do," he added. The senator also pledged to support the park on his radio program, enthusiastically adding that "the project is a go-go."
While Mitchell is optimistic that the park will become a reality, she adds that it's really up to the community to build this park. "Let's not wait years," she said.
For more information about the park or to make a tax-deductible donation, contact Mitchell at 714-1765.
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