New skate park headed to Main Beach?

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
February 9, 2015 7:14 a.m.


Existing Main Beach Skate Park
Existing Main Beach Skate Park
Terry Oliver and Rob Ruy
Terry Oliver and Rob Ruy

Organizers and supporters of a new, improved skate board park for Main Beach presented their ideas to the city of Fernandina Beach during the Fernandina Beach City Commission’s (FBCC) February 3, 2015 Regular Meeting. Rob Ruy and Terry Oliver addressed the commissioners, while a few dozen avid skateboarders of all ages shared their enthusiasm from the audience.

Ruy, owner of Pipeline Surf Shop in Fernandina Beach, spoke to the need for a state of the art skate park in the city. He said that every week the city loses tax dollars as families leave town to seek more challenging skating experiences in other cities. He talked about the popularity of the sport and the relative expense per user – 71 cents – compared to the cost for baseball park users — $7.47. Although the cost to build each facility is comparable, the number of skate park users eclipses baseball players by a factor of ten. Ruy stressed that unlike baseball, skateboarding is a year-round activity.

“Skate parks are as important as ball fields,” Ruy said, adding that skateboarding is the fastest growing sport in the world and that the location of a good skate park often determines the site of family vacations. He said, “We recognize there is a process [to city commitment and construction of a new skate park]. We want community solidarity in going forward. What do we need to do?”

Vice Mayor Johnny Miller, FBCC liaison to the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee, talked about the success of the existing park, which was built both to provide a recreation facility for skateboarders and respond to local complaints about skateboarders using private property for their sport. He reinforced Ruy’s position that a skate park is a draw for visitors as well as a facility for residents.

DSCN4071Commissioner Pat Gass asked if Ruy wanted to lease land for a private operation, comparing it to the Putt-Putt concession. Ruy said that he and his supporters intended it to be a city operation on city land.

Naples, FL Skate Park - Team Pain Design
Naples, FL Skate Park – Team Pain Design (13,500 square feet)

Ruy indicated that he and Oliver have been in contact with Team Pain, a skate park specialist with over 30 years of experience in creating custom skate parks and structures for a diverse clientele. Located in Winter Park, FL, they have designed municipal parks throughout the state ( They do custom work and will design a park to meet a specific size and setting. Ruy said that Teampain is excited about a potential project here. The company would bring in a surveyor, designer and builder to develop costs.


Apollo Beach, FL Skate Park - Team Pain Design
Apollo Beach, FL Skate Park – Team Pain Design (11,000 square feet)


Ruy talks about Team Pain's ability to work with any size land parcel to design a skate park.
Ruy talks about Team Pain’s ability to work with any size land parcel to design a skate park.

He said that in order to move forward with design and cost estimates, he needed a commitment from the city in terms of land allocation and tax dollars. While commissioners seemed receptive toward the concept, they were not ready to commit. Commissioner Robin Lentz asked Ruy to work with city Parks and Recreation Director Nan Voit and the advisory committee, who are currently involved in drawing up a new Parks and Recreation plan for the city, slated for delivery in April. Commissioner Tim Poynter stressed that it is important to have an idea of costs and how the city and park advocates would fund the project. Mayor Ed Boner said that it would be up to the Parks and Recreation Department to identify the footprint for a skate park as well as the location.

City Parks and Rec Director Nan Voit encourages Ruy and supporters to attend Parks and Rec Committee meeting Wednesday.
City Parks and Rec Director Nan Voit encourages Ruy and supporters to attend Parks and Rec Committee meeting Wednesday.

City Manager Joe Gerrity suggested that Ruy and his supporters attend the next Parks and Recreation Committee meeting (February 11 at 4:00 p.m., Atlantic Recreation Aquatics Center) so that their ideas might be incorporated in the larger plan for parks which is currently under discussion.

Vice Mayor Johnny Miller, who brought this item to the meeting agenda, said that he was a little biased in this matter, since as a former Parks and Recreation Department employee he had been assigned to work at the existing city skate park during its first year of operation. He said that the park was a complete success immediately upon opening. “We need a place for kids to go where it is safe, and skaters are going to skate,” he said. He added that a lot of local skaters head to Kona Skate Park in Jacksonville, when they outgrow the challenges of the Main Beach Park. “This is money and tourism that we could recapture with an upgraded park,” he emphasized.


Skateboarders in support of new park
Sampling of skateboarders in attendance to support new park

Ruy and Oliver received a round of applause from skateboarders in the audience.

Suanne Thamm 4Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.

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gerry clare
gerry clare(@gerrycclaregmail-com)
8 years ago

What is wrong with the current skate park? Unmanned? Too small? Great location although there is probably more land available off the island for a huge commercial venture, and kids would have to be driven there.

Louis Goldman
Louis Goldman(@lgoldmngmail-com)
8 years ago

There’s nothing wrong with the current skate park. It’s just small an a little too basic. Why can’t we build the new ‘state of the art’ skate park on the north side of the existing park and then different level skateboarders can use either one?

lea scott
lea scott (@guest_28149)
8 years ago

A New and improved skate park would be a terrific asset to our island. The current location is ideal for kids of all ages. It would be great enlarged with more challenging obstacles. Great way to keep tweens and teens engaged.

Dave Lott
Dave Lott(@dave-l)
8 years ago

While cost is an important component in the overall decision, liability is another key issue for a “state of the art” park. I remember when the original skate park was built it was to be staffed by skater’s parents and other volunteers to ensure helmets and other safety equipment would be worn. Then a concessionaire was going to be brought in to sell snacks and equipment and would also serve as the safety monitor. Both these efforts soon fizzled out and the Parks & Recreation had to devote an employee to be the safety monitor and then that got reduced to spot checks. Yes, the park is basic but I don’t think it is a deciding factor in out-of-town visitors deciding to vacation here. Also, these deluxe skate parks with their big bowls and ramps bring with them a higher risk of injury. You can have people sign waivers of liability all day long but that doesn’t stop someone that is injured from suing the City citing negligence or unsafe conditions in some way. This should be looked at very closely as I am sure it will.

Charlene Todd
Charlene Todd (@guest_28198)
8 years ago

I have a concern about the city paying for a park for children (young adults) that does not appear to be supervised. My husband has taken my grandchild there recently and had to leave due to very inappropriate words and conversations.

Additionally, perhaps we want to charge to use the park as we do other facilities that the city provides. Maybe with a lower cost to city residents.

Dave Lott
Dave Lott(@dave-l)
8 years ago

Charlene, I don’t know of any of the City’s parks being supervised for individual activity so the unfortunate situation encountered by your husband and grandchild could happen anywhere. If your husband wasn’t comfortable with saying something to the offenders then I’m sure a call to the Parks & Recreation staff (or after hours to the Police non-emergency number) would have been able to resolve the problem.
The economic feasibility of staffing the facility in order to collect a fee usually isn’t there.

Paul Condit
Paul Condit(@pconditgmail-com)
8 years ago

I have also been worried about the City’s liability at the skate park for some time. I go by there often and find that most of the kids are without a helmet and a lot ride bikes on the ramps, clearly stated as a violation of the rules. I am sure there are also violations of the rules that everyone have a waiver of liability. Who would ever know if they didn’t? I have voiced this concern to the city management without apparent followup. I think as a minimum a police drive by and enforcement periodically at the crowded times would lower the violations. At least that would show everyone that we have concerns about the miss use.

John P. Megna
John P. Megna (@guest_29055)
8 years ago

Existing skate park seems to be efficient, and the question size, location, cost, and some other questions should be referred to Parks and Recreation and the Advisory Committee which will look at this question – and then refer this to the Commission to decide. He runs a skateboard operation – and has not said who builds, pays, (lease) or details of payment. Seems like the City needs to determine all of these questions answered.