Macon area skaters hope to highlight need for public skate park during Go Skateboarding Day

hgoodridge@macon.comJune 16, 2013 

Everyone knew Sunday was Father’s Day.

Many don’t know about a holiday taking place Friday -- the 10th annual Go Skateboarding Day.

It all started in skateboarding’s unofficial capital, Southern California, as “an excuse for skateboarders to make skateboarding their top priority,” according to goskateboardingday.org.

Some Macon area skaters plan on doing just that.

“It’s a worldwide holiday to raise awareness of the skateboarding scene,” said Matthew “Buffalo” Morgan, of Macon.

He said they want to highlight the need for a public skateboard park here.

Morgan is organizing a group of skaters who are planning to meet downtown in the alley next to Roasted Cafe & Lounge on Second Street at 4 p.m.

Morgan, 27, said they’re going to play a game of “S-K-A-T-E” in the alley, which is similar to the game of H-O-R-S-E in basketball, but instead of competitors having to duplicate shots, they’ll have to copy skate tricks.

After the game, the group of skaters, expected to number about 30, will make their way to Washington Park where they’ll meet up with more skaters, including Jonathan Kennedy, owner of Clockwork Skate Shop in Macon Mall.

Kennedy is planning a free barbecue for all the skaters in the park. After that, the skaters plan to skate to Central City Skate Park in Central City Park -- if they have the city’s blessing.

Kennedy, who has staged Go Skateboarding Day events here in the past, said he’s working with the city this year to get the proper permits.

He tried it without permits about three years ago, and it didn’t go too well.

“Police showed up at Poplar and Second (streets). We had about 70 kids and they wouldn’t let anyone skate,” he recalled. “They were pretty gnarly about that.”

The skaters continued to observe Go Skateboarding Day. “We just went underground,” Kennedy said.

This year he wants to do it right because the stakes are too high. They want a public skate park in Macon, and breaking the rules will not help that cause.

“We need one,” Kennedy said.

Bibb considering public skate park

The $5 it takes to skate at the privately owned Central City Skate Park can be costly on a skater’s budget.

“Skaters are poor, for the most part,” Kennedy said. “It gets expensive. Public is nice. You can go there anytime for free.”

Central City Skate Park is only open for three hours, four days a week. When it’s closed, skaters have to find places where they’re not always welcome.

“You can sometimes skate for an hour or two downtown, or you can get kicked out in a minute,” said Joshua Marks, 32. “It’s hit or miss. They don’t welcome it.”

Marks and other Middle Georgia skaters should be stoked to know that Joplin, Mo.-based American Ramp Company -- one of the largest skate park builders in the country -- will be in Macon in the coming weeks for a planning session on building a skate park here.

“It’s something we should have,” said Dale “Doc” Dougherty, director of Bibb County’s Parks and Recreation Department. “We should have done it years ago, but it’s better late than never.”

Fortunately for skateboarders, as the county spends the more than $39 million in SPLOST funds making major upgrades to parks, building a skate park now would be perfect timing, Dougherty said.

“It’s a long-term great thing for the community,” he said. “Skaters are some good people who need a place to go ... and not jump on monuments.”

Dougherty said he’s familiar with the skaters’ plans for Friday’s Go Skateboarding Day. His staff is assisting them with permitting. He also said it’s important that the skaters have a seat at the table when the park is being planned.

The park would be an economic driver for the county, Dougherty said. People would come from throughout “the Middle Georgia community and will stop and eat, fill up with gas,” he said.

Marks agrees. “Plenty of skaters, not just (from) Macon, but surrounding counties (would come),” he said. “If there’s a place that’s cool, they’re going to come to it.”

Lori Carr, owner of Central City Skate Park, said she wouldn’t see a public skate park as competition.

“I would be blessed if the city would open a free park for these kids so I can retire,” she said. Carr has run the park for 14 years.

“It was profitable in the first five or six years,” she said.

The park doesn’t turn a profit anymore and Carr said it’s now like volunteer work for her. “I don’t make a dime. ... it pays its own bills,” she said.

“It’s not all about the money,” Carr said. “It’s about the kids in your community and giving them a place to go to play basketball, or play football, or baseball or skating.

“I’m not willing to just shut it down without somewhere else for them to go,” Carr said.

To contact writer Harold Goodridge, call 744-4382.

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