Skate park fans pack S’ville meeting

Skateboarders jam Summerville Town Council’s recreation committee meeting.

SUMMERVILLE — More than 50 skateboarders jammed a Town Council recreation committee meeting Wednesday that normally draws, well, nobody.

They didn’t “shred.” They were gnar, which means they were cool. The nametags they wore simply said, “Please.”

Summerville officials are taking a hard look at building a skate park and are eyeing a site along the Sawmill Branch Bike/Hike trail near Newington Plantation subdivision.

The three-council member recreation committee unanimously recommended that full council approve studying the proposal, at the urging of Mayor Bill Collins, who was seated in the audience and posed for pictures with skateboarders afterward.

That would be a majority vote when the council holds its monthly meeting April 11.

It’s the first solid progress on getting a park built in town since Inland Skate and Surf owner Bill Ridenour and a horde of other skaters began pushing for it more than a decade ago.

Earlier proposals were derailed by council wariness over liability concerns, with the parks all but new to the area.

But now Charleston and Mount Pleasant operate parks. The Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission is planning a $2 million, tournament-grade facility.

“It’s a great, healthy thing to do. It’s a lot of fun. It brings together people from diverse backgrounds and it’s something we all really dig,” said John Rogers, an Oakbrook area father of three skateboarders who also is a 25-year veteran of shredding ramps and rails.

The large audience, mostly teens, echoed him with loud, polite applause. “I’m impressed,” committee member and Councilwoman Kima Garten-Schmidt said of the turnout.

There was a small skateboard park across from Summerville High School years ago, but the sport really skidded its way to popularity in the town in the 1990s. By 2002 skateboarders were being chased off church rails, tennis courts, the roofs of Hutchinson Square businesses and the steps of Town Hall.

The town banned them from every park except the trail, while looking into a skateboard park.

Collins campaigned last year promoting more community activities and emphasized a desire to do more for the town’s young people. “If you don’t have a skate park, your whole town is a skate park,” he said Wednesday.

A small park could be built for about $50,000 with a liability insurance cost of $2,500 per year, Collins said.

Ridenour said skateboarders would help raise money for it.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744.

Science and environment reporter. Author of Washing Our Hands in the Clouds.