Westminster, county plan to build skateboard park Officials say residents' requests driving project

October 29, 1997|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

The City of Westminster and Carroll County government are planning to convert two tennis courts on the city playground into a park for skateboard enthusiasts.

The County Commissioners authorized county Parks and Recreation Department Director Richard Soisson to work with Westminster recreation officials to create the park. The City Council has not yet acted on the proposal, but the city parks board favors it.

The authorization comes after four months of talks between Soisson and interested elected officials in several Carroll towns. Soisson said he began looking for a site in response to citizens' requests for a skate park. The commissioners urged Soisson in June to consider a skateboard facility in Freedom Park near Sykesville. But Soisson said yesterday that he would prefer to see the Westminster park built first.

L. Gregory Pecoraro, City Council liaison to the parks board, welcomed the commissioners' action. "As I've talked to people around town, a lot of them said it would be great if the kids had a place to go and ride their skateboards," he said.

Soisson plans to involve interested skateboarders in designing the ramps. The county will advance the estimated $30,500 construction cost from the state Program Open Space fund. Westminster is to repay the money from user fees, which also will cover city operating costs and liability insurance.

Tentative plans are to open the park from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

City officials say the remaining two tennis courts in the park should be adequate to accommodate tennis players. "We've seen a real decline in the use of the courts," Pecoraro said.

Soisson said he doesn't have statistics, but has observed a countywide decline in interest in tennis. "A lot of our tennis courts aren't being utilized the way they were 10 years ago," he said. He said the county hasn't built any new tennis courts for several years.

Meanwhile, skateboarders ride on city sidewalks or ramps where they're not always welcome or safe. The parks board consensus favored a place for skateboarders, "a safe environment so they wouldn't have to be finding private property or a handicapped ramp," said board Chairman Jay Voight.

Soisson estimated that a Westminster skate park would attract 90 users a week.

That estimate may be conservative. Ramp Builders Inc., a private skate park that has been operating for seven months near Reese, had an average of 30 to 40 riders a day last summer. Weekday attendance has dropped to about 20 to 30 a day since school opened, said employee Blaine Nelson, but weekend attendance is growing. Last Sunday, 90 skaters used the facility, he said.

Skateboarders interested in helping to design the Westminster ramps can contact the Carroll County Department of Recreation and Parks at 410-857-2103.

Pub Date: 10/29/97

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