Surf City leaders ask for contributions for recreation complex skatepark

With over 40 years of surfboard experience, George Howard has had a lot of thrills on the waves coming ashore.

And when there wasn’t a lot of action near the coast, he was on a skateboard.

“In the ’60s and’ 70s we skated when it was flat,” Howard said of the changes to the popular skating subculture. “But when there were waves we would surf. Now the kids just skate and they start young.”

It’s something he sees a lot in Surf City. Howard, owner of On Shore Surf Shop, has been pushing for a skatepark in town for over 10 years. Thanks to the plans for the Earl G. & Inez Batts Recreation Complex, he can’t wait to see one soon.

Surf City Parks, Recreation and Tourism officials are looking for people to join a design team for the skatepark. Announcements were made on social media and the Surf City website and the nominations are under review.

Howard said it was something that had been discussed in town, but the idea never came to fruition.

“We’re getting positive feedback and everyone is going about it,” Howard said. “Then the next thing you know, we’re hit by a hurricane, and bam, it throws everything away. Right now we have a good chance of getting it built.”

It’s the comeback that Chad Merritt, director of Surf City Parks and Recreation, hopes to have a major impact.

“We put this in place because obviously I’m not a skateboarding guru, it’s not my hobby, but we want to make sure that if we put a skatepark and design a skatepark, it meets the needs of the community, ”Merritt said. “We got their involvement through inquiries and public meetings. We have entrepreneurs who contact us and try to talk to us (about the different designs), but I would prefer that the people in the community who are going to use it and the stakeholders to be able to review those designs and determine what they would like to see and ultimately come up with a final product to present to our community and city council. ”

A skateboarder enjoys taking a ride on a sidewalk in Surf City.

Howard is eager to offer advice on building something with a balance for skaters of all ages and skill levels.

“You can build a park, but if it’s not the right kind of park, you’re just throwing away caution,” Howard said. “If it’s too technical for the younger generation, but it’s good for the older generation, then it won’t work. You have to have something that flows and that works for all skaters.”

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Roll along

The skatepark is part of a complex that will include many other amenities next to the city’s community center and sports complex. The estimated cost of the first and second phases of the Batts Recreation Complex is approximately $ 2.5 million. Of that total, the skatepark will likely cost over $ 400,000. A completion date will depend on grant funding. To date, over $ 1.1 million has been submitted through application processes.

Surf City purchased the land in 2020 from the Batts Family Corporation, which was established by the late Earl G. Batts and his wife, Inez S. Batts, in the 1970s. In 2019, a comprehensive plan determined that residents of Surf City wanted a skatepark. At a public meeting to discuss land use, around 100 people showed up and Merritt said 90% were there to lobby for a skatepark.

“There’s a lot of other things we do with this park, but the skatepark just seems like the thing that overshadows everything else,” Merritt said.

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Merritt said this is a project the community is passionate about after looking at polls, emails and other media.

“We were able to get a lot of feedback from the community so we know this is something they are supporting,” he said. “We just want to continue to provide services that they benefit from. Anything that keeps kids active, adults active and provides an outlet for them, especially during the pandemic, we want to be able to do.”

A young skateboarder from Surf City steps on his skateboard outside the On Shore Surf Shop.

He said the department is fortunate to have a city council, director and mayor supporting projects such as the upcoming complex and the recent opening of the ADA kayak, canoe and paddleboard dock in Soundside Park, which allows people with physical disabilities to launch small boats. in a safe and accessible manner.

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For Howard, the days when Surf City was a “quaint fishing village” are long gone, especially with more and more people coming to the area. According to the 2020 census, Surf City has more than 3,860 inhabitants, a gain of 2,000 (108%) since 2010.

“When I moved here 30 years ago I will never forget we were sitting in the living room one night and my daughter, I think she was 11, and she said ‘Daddy, he did. there’s no one here but old people, ”Howard said. “She was absolutely right, at the time there were a lot of retired people here, a lot of farmers had homes here. It was about a generation older.”

But those times have changed. Along with other business owners, Howard sees more families with children coming from Raleigh and Charlotte or through an association with the military via nearby Camp Lejeune.

“These kids come from cities that have skateparks,” he said, thinking about the future. “There is a good skate scene on Roland Avenue, but a good concrete park would definitely benefit the city. Other cities have done it in our area. We’re one of the few beach towns that haven’t. no skatepark, so we’re ‘I’m excited about that.’

Journalist Chase Jordan can be contacted at [email protected]

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