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Skaters, public share ideas, see plans for park

May. 23, 2013 @ 11:30 PM

HUNTINGTON -- The plans for a skate park at Harris Riverfront Park were rolling along during a public meeting Thursday evening at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.

About 30 people gathered in the arena's foyer for the meeting, meant as both a forum for sharing ideas about the proposed park and seeing preliminary designs from Team Pain, a company specializing in the construction of skate parks. Team Pain is working in conjunction with AECOM Technical Services of Richmond, Va., to create Huntington's park.

Huntington City Council members unanimously approved the authorization of a contract with the companies last month. No timeline has been given as to when construction would begin on the park.

The addition of a skate park to the city is mutually beneficial for the city, skateboarders and BMX riders, and those who have had concerns about the safety of the extreme sports on the streets, said Don Kleppe, project manager for the City of Huntington Department of Development.

"Certainly on our sidewalks there have been some interface problems in the past," said Kleppe. "It becomes a public safety issue for everyone. You have the people on the street who might not be able to handle having someone on wheels coming up behind them or toward them, and you have the skateboarders who don't know what might be around the corner."

Kleppe said the park would serve to eliminate that public safety issue, and Tito Porrata, lead designer for Team Pain, said the park provides a place for the skaters and bikers to practice their sport.

"You have to look at the skateboard as a tool like a baseball, a basketball or a football," said Porrata. "In the community, we have baseball and football fields and basketball courts for those players to use, and a skate park is the same thing for those who use their skateboards for their sport."

Porrata's design was made for a section of Harris Riverfront park between 7th and 8th Streets along the west end of the park. He said the two biggest challenges of that area are the narrowness of the space and the gas line that runs under the park.

The park would be built in four phases, said Porrata.

Two of the construction phases will be spent on a 350-foot long street course, which mimics obstacles found on a city street -- like stairs, rails and flat tops. The other two phases are in-ground portions, which will bypass the gas line, said Porrata.

One will be a mini bowl, which mimics an in-ground pool, and a snake run, which essentially is a curvy in-ground half-pipe course.

Zach Bronosky of Huntington is a BMX rider who said he was encouraged by what he saw at the meeting, especially after hearing so many rumors and failed attempts to bring such a park to the area. He said he signed a petition in high school to bring a park here, but nothing ever became of that effort.

"I wanted to see how serious it was this time," said Bronosky. "So far, I really like it. These are sports that people practice in this area. There is no park, so we almost have to take to the streets to practice, and I think this park will give us a place to have fun and do what we love in a better environment."

For more information or to make comments about the park, contact Kleppe by emailing dkleppe@cityofhuntington.com.

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