City council to discuss location for skate park

Committee to consider former high school site for recreational spot


November 04, 2003|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

David Hess was among a group of teen-agers that went to a Taneytown city council meeting in 1993 to ask for a skate park. He failed in that mission. But now his father, Councilman Richard L. Hess Jr., chairs the council's recreation and parks committee, and the city council will decide whether the old Taneytown High School site would be a good spot for a skate park.

Taneytown Mayor W. Robert Flickinger talked about a skate park before his election in May, and earlier this month, the city council voted unanimously in favor of building one. The city has about $33,000 from Program Open Space available for the project.

"I think it is great that they are finally opening a skate park," Hess wrote in an e-mail.

David S. Hess, 26, is a staff sergeant and Air Force security forces fire team leader, stationed with the Air Expeditionary Security Forces near the airport in Baghdad.

At the council work session tomorrow night, Councilman Hess will present the recommendation of a committee established to get the construction of the the skate park under way. The committee, set up by the mayor and council, proposes using the former high school site.

The county and the Board of Education turned the property over to the town after the building was demolished. The location, near the northeast corner of George Street and Roberts Mills Road, is downtown, two blocks from Baltimore Street across from the senior center. There is a small T-ball field there, where a tennis court-sized skate park would be built, Hess said.

Former Mayor Henry C. Heine Jr., a longtime supporter of the idea and a member of the skate park committee, said his only concern is that the spot might be too small, and skateboarders might become bored.

Proponents say the skate park could be an answer to complaints from homeowners that their sidewalks and steps are used by skateboarders for stunts - and to youngsters' complaints that they have no gathering spot in Taneytown.

Similar issues led to the youngsters' proposal a decade ago.

"They were getting chased off every place they tried to skateboard," Heine said. He recalled coaching the younger Hess and several other youths before they made their pitch to the council in September 1993.

"I clued them in about what kinds of questions to anticipate," he said. "I remember David Hess. He was so enthusiastic."

But the proposal ran aground amid questions about liability, Heine said, especially after a Frederick alderman told Taneytown officials about his city's bad experience with a few youths.

At a meeting in January 1994, the council tabled the idea indefinitely.

"I wasn't there to help defend it," said Heine, who missed the meeting because of ankle surgery. "It's a shame things didn't work out then, but I think they will fairly soon."

Richard Hess said he hopes the skate park will open in the spring.

"It's exciting," he said. "We're going to be getting skaters involved in choosing the equipment."

The skate boarders will be involved in the next steps, such as choosing equipment and setting the rules, Hess said. There also has been some interest from bicyclists in using the facility.

He said his son has long been in favor of a skate park. "Ever since he was a kid, he was interested in having a skateboard park - since he was 10, 12 years old," Hess said.

In Taneytown, Police Chief William E. Tyler said he gets a few complaints about skate boarders, usually during the summer, from motorists, pedestrians and homeowners.

There are dozens of skate boarders, most age 10 to 18, with a few adults, he said.

There is no particular spot in the town of about 5,400 where they can congregate, Tyler said.

"It's spread out through town - in parking lots, on private property. We talk to them and they say `Well, where are we supposed to go?' " Tyler said.

He said he hopes that the skaters who would benefit from the park will help make it a success.

"We're trying to give the youth an opportunity to share in ownership of something they've wanted for a long time," he said. "We want them to help police it - to keep it safe, drug free, vandalism free."

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