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RCC Skates toward New Facility

Discussions over building a skatepark have been circulating through Reston for years. But in the next few months officials from the Reston Community Center will decide whether or not they want to go forward with the project.

A few weeks ago Dennis Kern, executive director of the Reston Community Center, received a skatepark business plan drawn up by a local consulting company. The plan gave cost analyses for building a skatepark at either of two locations: the Reston YMCA or Lake Fairfax Park.

"It has shown that this is a good line of business for us to be in," Kern said. "The market is good here, there is no other skatepark within 30 minutes of Reston. The Reston YMCA is located on the public bus routes, which would make it accessible. There is the Teen Center right there. Given the market and accessibility, [the skatepark] could be a revenue generator within the first year."

The business plan projects that, in the first year of operation, the skatepark, at the YMCA site, should bring in $57,000 after all the insurance and maintenance costs are subtracted. This amount should increase to $113,000 after five years, according to the report. The Lake Fairfax site, because it would not be as accessible as the YMCA site, is projected to attract one-third fewer users and bring in one-third less money.

BUT THERE MAY be one problem with the YMCA site. Some residents in the West Market neighborhood, adjacent to the proposed park site, are concerned the park will bring increased foot traffic through the neighborhood. Last Thursday the community held a meeting with Kern and other local officials to discuss the skatepark.

"In this area there are very few children," said neighborhood resident Steve Smithstein. "It will draw a bunch of kids coming through our private property, tearing up the neighborhood and jumping off stuff."

Josh Cook, an inline skater, came to the West Market meeting with his father John Cook, a Fairfax County police officer and avid rollerblader.

"With a skatepark you will cut down on the number of people hanging out, skating in your neighborhood," Josh Cook said. "If there was something close-by, I’d skate at that skatepark. It will give people a place to go so they’re not tearing up private property."

And Sgt. Bill Machinski, from the Reston District Police Station, said officers regularly patrol the area around the YMCA.

"If I see someone skateboarding at the Reston Town Center, and if I choose to enforce the law, I can A, write a ticket, and B, take the skateboard," Machinski said. "It’s 90 days until the court date, so do you think these kids want to be without a $240 skateboard for 90 days? No. So they’re going to carry their boards wherever they go."

OTHER RESIDENTS were concerned that with the park would come groups of teenagers, congregating in the neighborhood. Many said that, even now, they regularly pick up beer cans from along the Washington and Old Dominion bike trail, which runs between the neighborhood and the YMCA. Don Renner, from the West Market Homeowners Association, mentioned a brush fire he recently spotted near his backyard.

But, Renner said, he did not mean to suggest that skateboarders and rollerbladers would necessarily add to this vandalism.

"We realize there are some really great kids who do this," Renner said. "We are not making any value judgments on the type of kids who skateboard and rollerblade. It’s an issue of traffic."

Reston resident Chris Grill, a freshman at Herndon High School, said his parents must drive him half and hour to Leesburg, or to Potomac Mills Mall, if he wants to visit a skatepark. Grill and his father have built a wooden ramp, a launch box and a plank for grinding. But Grill said there are only so many tricks he can do with those items. He has tried skating at other places, like local elementary schools or the Town Center, but ultimately he is asked to leave.

"We get people kicking us out," Grill said. "So we’re limited to our neighborhoods, our driveways."

THE PROPOSED SKATEPARK would be mostly below ground level, said Kern. He said many of the park elements would resemble empty swimming pools.

"The idea is that the park would actually exist below the level of the Washington and Old Dominion Trail," Kern said.

The facility is planned to be 25,000 square feet in size, located along a trail that runs from the Washington and Old Dominion to the YMCA. The facility is planned to include a concession area, a storage area for the skaters, a 25-seat spectator area and building for three or four staff members. The skatepark would be fenced and landscaped, with no lights for night skating.

The park, estimated to cost between $700,000 and $800,000, would be paid for by revenues from small tax district number five, which covers most of Reston. Hours of the park would coincide with the hours of the Fairfax County Public Schools. During the school year the park would open at 2:30 p.m. during school days. During winter (December through March) the park would close at 5 p.m. During spring (April through May) the park would close at 7 p.m. And during the fall (September through November) the park would close at 6 p.m. During the summer the park would open at noon and close at 8 p.m. On weekends during the school year the park would open at 11 a.m. and run until sunset.

After the entire Reston Community Center Board of Governors has had a chance to review the skatepark business plan, they will discuss it, make recommendations, release the plan to the public, and schedule a public hearing. After listening to public comments on the skatepark, the board will decide whether to approve the park. Then the proposal will go to the Fairfax Planning Commission, which will make a recommendation, then forward the proposal to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which will give final approval.

Kern said if the project progresses quickly through all the boards and commissions, the park will be ready to open by June 2003. He considered that a "very aggressive schedule," though, and said a two-year schedule is more realistic.