Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
February 9, 2015 7:14 a.m.
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.
Commissioner 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.
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 (teampain.com/projects). 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.
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 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.
Ruy and Oliver received a round of applause from skateboarders in the audience.
Editor’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.