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Skate Park Considered

Officials, staff initiate studies into potential future park for town’s skaters.

The Town of Vienna has begun exploring a potential project that could bring up to a 15,000 square-foot skate park to town in the coming years.

In a June 6 work session presentation to the mayor and Town Council, Vienna Parks and Recreation Department Director Cathy Salgado presented analysis of two potential locations for the skate park. Those sites are the Park Street parking lot for the Vienna Community Center and an unrevealed "heavily wooded" property that the town would need to purchase from a private owner before construction could begin, according to a staff memorandum.

Unlike other skate parks in the region that utilize wooden skate ramps and half pipes, the park would be made entirely of concrete, featuring bowls and ledges for skaters, according to the memorandum. Initial cost estimates for the development of the two sites range from $250,000 to $450,000, it noted.

A skate park "is something that is brought up in every community," said Salgado. "I have two teenagers myself and you see [skaters] out there skating in town, it pretty much tells the story about the demand right there."

VIENNA’S PARKS and Recreation Department has long had the goal of putting a formal skate park in Vienna, according to Salgado.

"When you have kids who are out playing basketball, they want to be playing on a basketball court, so just with skating, you want to have a skate park," she said. "It really provides a place for kids who skate to partake in their recreation of choice … and that is something that we’ve been interested in providing for a long time."

In 2001, Salgado and Vienna Town Council member Maud Robinson made a concentrated push for Fairfax County to place a skate park in the county-owned Nottoway Park off of Courthouse Road. The proposal was turned down after residents expressed a desire to see more of the park’s green space preserved, according to Robinson.

"Nobody has hoped more for a skate park than I have," said Robinson. "I watch the kids skateboarding down at Giant [Supermarket], they seem like nice kids and I want them to have a place to skate."

Finding a good place to skate in Vienna is difficult, according to 13-year-old skateboarder and Vienna resident Shea Lueder, who was skating behind a local supermarket on Monday.

"We have the motivation, but there's just no place for us to go," Lueder said, adding that he is excited about the possibility of a skate park in Vienna. "People are always yelling at us, we got kicked out of two places already today."

The creation of a formal skate park in town is being considered as a way of not only providing an alternative activity for some of the town’s residents, but also as a way of increasing safety, according to both Robinson and Vienna Mayor M. Jane Seeman.

"The kids now are skateboarding in places like parking lots, which is dangerous," Seeman said. "So it’s about safety and at the same time, we don’t want them on the Town Green … or other places where they could damage property."

THE DEMAND among Vienna residents for a skate park is seen almost daily by council member Edythe Kelleher.

"I see the demand because I see kids out there in town skateboarding almost every day," Kelleher said. "But I also know that it’s very expensive and we need to look closely at that before we start deciding on anything."

That lack of available funding has kept this project in an exploratory and not a planning phase at the moment, according to Seeman.

"It’s a little more long-term of a project at this point," she said, "we’re just looking ahead and seeing what we could do in the future."

Balancing priorities will prove to be the biggest factor in determining when and if a skate park can be completed, according to Robinson.

"It’s a conundrum, yes, it would be wonderful to have a place in town where [residents] can skate," she said. "But you can also be a scrooge and take a bottom line approach and say that there are other priorities that are important to other residents."

Usable space for a skate park and the high costs that could be associated with those few remaining locations could also spell doom for the project, Robinson added.

"We are four square miles, we’re not this sprawling part of the county with room to do everything," she said. "We are what we are and we want to run every possible facility and service for our residents, but the question is, what do you do when you run out of space?"