YMCA skate park, the area’s first, faces an uncertain future

By on January 12, 2014

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Keagan McCall catches some air Sunday. (Rob Morris)

The Outer Banks Family YMCA skate park hangs in the balance as facility leaders evaluate the needs of the Y over the next 15 to 20 years. But the local skate community isn’t taking any chances.

The Nags Head Skate Committee has ramped up a petition campaign to urge community leaders to save the park. Built in 2003, the 15,000-square-foot park was the first of its kind on the Outer Banks and includes concrete bowls, ramps and a wooden street section.

Local YMCA Executive Director Katie Burgus says there has been no decision yet on the fate of the park, but officials are holding a handful of focus groups to gather community input on the best way to make use of the park, facility and surrounding property.

After the Y park was erected more than a decade ago, public skate parks have since been constructed in Kitty Hawk, Manteo and Kill Devil Hills. And Currituck County built skate parks in Point Harbor and Maple.

“There have been no concrete decisions made, and we don’t want people jumping to conclusions,” said Burgus. “We are still in the information-gathering stages. We want to find the best way to serve the entire community over the next 15 to 20 years.”

A decline in skate park usage over the past few years and much-needed repairs have recently put it under the microscope. Users must pay an annual or daily fee and sign a liability waiver to use it.

In response to the impending decision, local skater Jeff Jackson has spearheaded the Nags Head Skate Committee, which published a petition on change.org to spur either Y or municipal leaders into keeping and upgrading the park or building a new one nearby.

So far, the petition has garnered more than 340 online signatures from local residents and skating enthusiasts around the country. A petition is also circulating locally.

“The Y’s park kicked off all of the other parks in the community,” said Jackson. “We’d love to see it stay. The bowl needs to be resurfaced and there needs to be an adequate street course and it would be an epic spot.”

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The park needs repairs and does not get the kind of use it once boasted. (Rob Morris).

The street course is falling apart, with half of it unskateable, Jackson said.

“The Y park is in a perfect location, close to the school and to lots of local neighborhoods. We don’t want to end up with a park up near Windmill Point, where it would be out of reach,” he added.

Mike Rowe, owner of 158 Surf and Skate in Kitty Hawk, said the biggest hurdle the Y faces is charging skaters to use the park.

“It will be a tragedy if they have to bulldoze it,” he said. “The town needs to step in, take over the park and make it public so that skaters can come and go as they please. That is the only thing that is going to save it. No one wants to pay to go to a skate park.”

The skate park has experienced a decline in usage since 2009, when only 60 annual skate park passes were purchased. That number slid to just 35 in 2010 and 27 in 2011. At the same time, the purchase of daily passes also decreased. Repairs and upgrades to the park would be costly, Burgus said.

Lowe said that it makes sense for the town of Nags Head to take over operation of the park.

“If they don’t, they will just end up building another one. The Kitty Hawk skate park is too small and is already too crowded and I am guessing the one at Aviation Park, too. They spent more money on the dog park there (in Kitty Hawk),” he said.

Nags Head Mayor Bob Edwards said commissioners have been involved in the focus groups, but town officials have not addressed the possibility of town ownership. While Edwards said he was not aware of the local petition, he has talked to a number of residents who were concerned about the possible loss of the park.

Burgus stressed that due to the decline in usage, the Y is obligated to consider whether it is serving the community in the best way possible. The focus groups are expected to conclude at the end of January.

“The Y is going to do what they want to do,” Jackson said. “I can see their point of view. They are looking at the people coming in the gate. But we want to make sure we keep a skate park in Nags Head. The community wants a skate park.”

Once the Y receives all community input, a master plan committee made up of eight community leaders will make a recommendation to the Outer Banks YMCA’s board of managers on the facility’s future, including the skate park.

“This plan is not just about the skate park, but about the entire facility and community,” Burgus said.

Once the committee makes a recommendation and feasibility studies are concluded, a formal recommendation will be made to the YMCA’s South Hampton Roads Board of Directors.

Burgus said there is no timeline for when a recommendation will be made.


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