City skate park to be built this year

Safety, traffic concerns prompt officials to push early construction

Opening expected Aug. 1

June 15, 2000|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

The Board of Estimates approved yesterday $52,000 to construct the city's first public skateboard facility at Carroll Park in Southwest Baltimore.

Responding to police concerns that an increasing number of skaters were causing traffic and safety hazards in Pigtown, Mayor Martin O'Malley and Parks and Recreation Director Thomas Overton rushed to get the park built a year earlier than budgeted.

"This is what our young people are doing," Overton told the board. "And we need to come to the cutting edge."

O'Malley pushed for the new facility after growing complaints about skaters building ramps at a Pigtown intersection. The debate over the skaters heated up after recent articles in The Sun, the mayor said.

"They were getting pushed around and out into the streets, which isn't safe," O'Malley said. He said getting the skateboard park built is the best solution for the city and the youths.

The skateboard park nearest Baltimore is in Lansdowne in Baltimore County. The city has a $1 million grant to fix up Carroll Park and more than $5 million worth of wish-list items in the master plan, including the skate court, a playground, youth baseball fields, basketball courts and tennis courts.

As a temporary solution, the city has allowed the children to skate on a park tennis court in the past month. The new skate court will be about the size of a basketball court.

The park should be completed by Aug. 1, Overton said. The city is asking the youths to help design it, he said.

Over the past eight years, 36 children have been killed skateboarding across the nation, including 31 in traffic accidents, Overton said. None has been killed in the city.

Mary Ferguson, a community artist who helped the skaters paint a mural on their corner, helped organize their efforts to be included in the Carroll Park plan. Ferguson said the group was elated yesterday at the news.

"The skaters are really thrilled that something is going to happen," Ferguson said. "People don't realize what a positive activity this really is."

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