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Roanoke Skaters Push to Add Skate Park to Master Plan

Andy Berg

As the city of Roanoke, Va., works towards a new parks and recreation master plan, perhaps the most contentious element has been a new skate park.

At a standing-room-only city council meeting, skaters of all ages showed up to advocate for a new park. Roanoke city leaders have been behind the skateboarders since the beginning of the fight, but the final master plan had excluded the project.                                                                      

City manager Bob Cowell said the plan was developed to be fiscally realistic, but Monday night the council agreed on a way to move forward, asking the city staff to add the skate park to the master plan on the condition that outside funds are secured to pay for it.

"Roanoke wants to be progressive, I applaud that, here is your opportunity to do something for a large demographic that nobody ever stands up for, or speaks up for," supporter Chad Clark told the local NBC affiliate

The discussion has been ongoing for years, after it was decided that an existing skate park in nearby Wasena will have to be demolished when the bridge above it is replaced. The city's hired consultant explained that the skate park was left out of the master plan because its surveys found skating low on the list compared to pools, greenways and recreation centers when the limited amount of funding is considered.

Parks and Recreation director Michael Clark is in favor of a skate park, but said it's hard to argue with the data from the statistically valid survey.

"(We know) that with a level of accuracy of 95 percent that those same exact answers would be replicated over and over within a five-percent margin of error," Clark said.

The nonprofit that supports the skate park has already raised enough funds to impress some board members.

William Sellari is a board member of the nonprofit and said it's in skaters’ DNA to be wary of authority, but that he and others felt the support from council and are encouraged by Monday's meeting.

"I think they really understand that our ability to get grants and funding for a skate park pending on a commitment from the city and I think a lot of what we heard was a definite commitment from the city about doing just that," Sellari said.

The city council will consider the matter again in the first week of August.

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