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Harr floats skateboarding ideas
He hopes to add equipment to improve Wilson Park facility

Monday, June 3, 2013

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Ethan Harr has big plans for the future of skateboarding in Henry County and Martinsville.

Harr, 21, has attended several Martinsville City Council and Henry County Board of Supervisors meetings to speak on behalf of the skateboarding community, and according to previous Bulletin reports, he helped design the skate park at J. Frank Wilson Park in Martinsville.

Now he is hoping to expand on that park and maybe help create a new one in the county.

Based on conversations he has had with skaters at the city park, Harr feels it would benefit from being expanded and the addition of more obstacles.

“What I’m aiming to accomplish with that,” he said, “is to extend the fence toward the basketball court ... (we would) probably have to move a little bit of dirt in order to add on to the concrete slab ... and build a few obstacles that I’ve talked to some of the kids and other skaters about.”

Those obstacles would include a flat bar for grinding, one both longer and closer to the ground than the existing bar, a manual pad and a box.

For those unfamiliar with skating lingo, the overall goal of the new obstacles, Harr said, is to “give people stuff that’s longer to grind or slide ... (and) really good obstacles to learn tricks on” with a skateboard.

“Talking to people locally in the skate scene,” he added, “they’re all really excited about those pieces.”

Harr said there is nothing wrong with the park’s current configuration, but the skaters who regularly use it are “ready for something bigger and better.”

A problem that has plagued the park in the past, according to previous reports, is standing water on the park’s concrete surface following strong rains. That problem remains, Harr said.

“There’s nothing, other than resurfacing the whole park, that can really be done,” he said.

City Manager Leon Towarnicki agreed.

“We looked at a couple of options,” he said. “One would be to somehow resurface (the skate park) ... and that would involve removing the equipment, putting in a layer of something over the top of what’s here, and that would be a pretty expensive proposition.”

“Another option that we looked at,” he said, “was actually cutting some grooves in (the surface). You would begin in the center and cut a groove that would taper from nothing in the middle to maybe an inch or an inch and a half at the edge, to create a channel for the water to run in. But the problem with that is ... you disrupt the flat, level, smooth surface that skateboarders want, so that’s not a good option.”

Right now, Towarnicki said, the best option has been for the city to provide several wide squeegees at the skate park so that the skaters can clear the surface after a rain. However, Towarnicki noted, when he visited the park Friday, it appeared the squeegees had been removed or stolen, so he said he would try and provide replacements.

Harr said that after the squeegees went missing, he bought his own. After strong rains, he tries to make it down to the park to clear the concrete surface for other skaters.

Harr said that he has not yet come up with an exact figure on how much it will cost to expand the skate park, but he expects that family and friends will be willing to help cover the bulk of the labor.

“The cool thing about skateboarders is, they’re down for building stuff” to help improve their skating experience, he said.

Harr hopes to launch a fundraising campaign soon, similar to the one that raised the funds initially to build the park, to cover the cost of the materials necessary. He said that he expects raising the funds will be relatively easy.

“Talking to the city council members and other people in the community, they’re all excited someone is taking the initiative to do something positive for the community.” he said. “It’s really nice to have that support. That’s half the battle right there.”

After the existing skate park is expanded, Harr hopes to be involved in the design and construction of a second skate park in the county.

An ordinance was proposed at Tuesday’s Henry County Board of Supervisors meeting to levy civil fines on skateboarders using private property.

The decision to propose the ordinance, which will see a public hearing at the board’s June meeting, was made after it came to light that the congregation of Moral Hill Baptist Church in Axton spent $150,000 to $200,000 to replace an exterior wall and rails at the church, only to have the new addition damaged by skateboarders.

According to Harr, one of the supervisors informally mentioned that in light of the new ordinance, the county might benefit from having a skate park of its own.

Ridgeway District Supervisor H.G. Vaughn confirmed later that he did toss out the idea of creating a Harvest Foundation-funded skate park at the Smith River Sports Complex. The board did not act on the idea, he added.

Harr believes that the best site for a potential county skate park would be in Jack Dalton Park behind the county administration building.

“That would be a great location,” he said. “It would be safe, and there’s always police” presence in the area.

Harr has visited a number of skate parks on the eastern seaboard, and in his experience, the best parks — the ones that skateboarding tourists will travel to an area to experience — are concrete parks, he said.

With concrete parks, Harr explained, all of the ramps and features in the park are made from poured concrete. While the skate park at J. Frank Wilson Park has a concrete pad, the ramps are modular and made from a different material.

“You don’t have to maintain” a concrete park, he said. “It’s going to last a lot longer than a wood or metal modular ramp.”

In addition to these other projects, Harr also hopes to one day open his own skate shop in the Martinsville area. He has already been working on business plans and grant proposals.

“I’m not going to give up on it,” he said. “I’m going to try to push it through no matter what.”

Harr is upbeat and hopeful about the future of his sport in the area and looks forward to spearheading the upcoming skateboarding projects in the city and county.

“Ain’t nothing to it but to do it,” he said.


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