Van Dyke Park is Home to City's First Skatepark

Van Dyke Park is Home to City's First Skatepark

After an arm injury ended Merritt Johnson's competitive swimming aspirations, she strapped on a helmet and elbow pads and dedicated her summer to skateboarding. The recent opening of the skateboard park in the City of Fairfax's Van Dyke Park came just in time for Johnson, who spends her mornings at the park going back and forth on the half-pipe.

"I just started skating about a month ago. I'm usually here every day. I like it because it's free. In the mornings there are no people," she said.

Johnson is a McLean resident and junior at the University of Southern California.

Tom Hall is a city resident. He's been riding for three or four years and likes the free aspect as well.

"You don't have to pay," he said.

Michael Cadwallader, City of Fairfax Parks and Recreation director, was pleased with the final product at Van Dyke Park. Right now, lighting or a skating fee is not in the plans.

"The word 'awesome' seemed to be the imperative word," he said.

Cadwallader was part of a task force, consisting of parents and children, that visited a few skate parks before it came up with a final plan. Members traveled to Woodbridge and Stafford, as well as Van's in Potomac Mills. Cadwallader also visited a skate park at Virginia Beach on his own.

"There's plans for Wakefield Park and Arlington as well," he said.

The skate park had a final price tag of $55,000 to the city, and the attendant cost is absorbed by the park department. Since the opening in late April, the hours an attendant is on were 5 p.m. to dark, Monday through Friday, and noon to dark on weekends. It will be adjusted once school is out to noon to dark every day.

STEVEN SECREST sported a pair of rollerblades as his mother Linda watched from a bench outside the fence.

"I come here every day. I've been to Van’s Skate Park, you have to pay. This is a whole lot better," he said.

Secrest brings her son from their house five minutes away, but they are moving soon.

"It's a nice enhancement," she said.

The park is located right next to the City police station, visible from Old Lee Highway. It is a fenced-in facility consisting of metal ramps and railings, with a cement open skating area. The hours are listed as "9 a.m. to Dusk" on the sign, but Hall noted it closes about 8 p.m., when it's still light in the summer evenings. He thinks lights would be a good idea and compares the situation to the tennis courts.

"I think it's unfair that they keep the tennis courts open for the upper class it seems like. they treat skaters like they're lower. Last time I was here, they closed at 8," he said.

Pilar Jones was with her younger children at the playground next to the skate park.

"It's a great idea," she said of the park. "It never occurred to me that it's a bad element, as long as they're not littering, yelling or using bad language," she said.

The metal ramps do clang when skaters jump off them. In the afternoons and evenings, it gets more crowded. When school lets out, the number of skaters will increase.