The Skate Park: A history of back-and-forth and what the future holds for UNF’s concrete wasteland

Jeremy Collard

“No Trespassing” signs were posted along the fence late last March, with no forewarning that the park was closing.Photo by Jeremy Collard
“No Trespassing” signs were posted along the fence late last March, with no forewarning that the park was closing.
Photo by Jeremy Collard

UPDATE – 5/21/15 at 2:54 p.m.

After weeks of uncertainty regarding the fate of the UNF skate park, UNF officials closed and demolished the park on Wednesday, May 20. No announcement was made.

Despite this, a link to the skate park’s website still remains up as of May 21.

Spinnaker attempted to contact Becky Purser, Director of Recreation, but was unable to reach her.

Spinnaker will update with new information as it becomes available.

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Issues of funding, repair and closure have plagued the UNF Skate Park since 2012, and in its current unusable state, the final chapter of this saga may be nearly over.

In January 2014, the skate park staff alerted the Department of Recreation that a section of the half-pipe was in bad shape. Upon inspection, Director of Recreation Becky Purser reported back to her supervisors that the remainder of the park was usable.

The section deemed unfit for skating was coned off, and the rest of the park was open for use.

That is, until late last month, when nine “No Trespassing: Skate Park closed due to equipment failure” signs were posted along the fence enclosing the park.

On April 1, there was only damage to one ramp in the park. Photo by Jeremy Collard
On April 1, there was only damage to one ramp in the park.
Photo by Jeremy Collard

“When we went out and looked at it, we saw that the covering material called Skatelite had cracked and that the structure underneath was mushy. About the same time that was occurring, the budget for staffing for the skate park was moving through the Budget and Allocations and Senate Process,” Purser said.

Last February, Student Government (SG) Treasurer Morgan Wolf proposed that the total Skate Park Attendant budget be cut, removing $10,000 from the allocated park staffing funds.

Wolf based her decision to zero-fund the skate park for the 2015-2016 fiscal year on a town hall student survey, SG’s financial position, usage numbers reported by Purser and the history of the skate park.

“Last year Student Government did something called a town hall with the legislative branch, which did a survey on students asking them the things that they used most on campus,” Wolf said.

SG surveyed a total of 387 students last November over a period of two days by asking students on campus to complete a questionnaire. The survey asked students to rate the Ogier Gardens, the UNF Arena, the Osprey Challenge Course, Student Wellness Complex, Eco-Adventure, the Skate Park and Intramural Sports on a scale of 1-8: one being rarely used and eight being used frequently.

“The skate park was [rated] extremely lower than the others,” Wolf said.

In the Jan. 30 Activity and Service (A&S) Fee Budget deliberations, Wolf said, “[SG] shouldn’t fund the skate park attendant. In the survey the skate park was the least used. I followed up with the director; at most there have been 95 students since July.”

The total projected A&S Fee budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year was set at $5,788,000 with students paying an overall A&S fee of $14.47 per credit hour. With the $10,000 annual skate park staff

Skaters were still using the skate park on April 8, even though there were “No Trespassing” signs posted along the fence. Photo by Jeremy Collard
Skaters were still using the skate park on April 8, even though there were “No Trespassing” signs posted along the fence.
Photo by Jeremy Collard

funding being cut from the A&S fee, the skate park initially closed on June 30, 2014.

The funding was picked up by the Student Life and Service fee, reopening the park later that summer on the basis that the reopening of the park would provide for a pilot study of usage.

“The admin wanted us to keep good records, like a pilot study, so the next administration could decide whether or not they wanted to continue to fund the operation of it,” Purser said. “That is what we are doing this year, and we have the funds to do it up until June 30; however, when we found the damage we had to close it, so nobody is using it.”

The 95 total students reported during the A&S fee budget proposal reflected the total number of individual students who had signed in since July, as reported by Purser, but this number does not reflect total daily use of the park.

“We took their ID’s and sign-ins from every single day that we were out there and counted the number of individual students, because a lot of the same students use it over and over,” Purser said. “So you might have 95 unique users, but you might have a total of 280 uses.”

Wolf, Purser and skate park attendants have suggested that the attendance records may not be completely accurate.

“They do not man it for the whole day, so it is really hard to get those numbers, and even the director would tell you that they struggle. It is really just an estimate because there is no one out there all the time,” Wolf said.

Purser reiterated this claim.

“We gave them the usage stats, but there were not a lot of students using it. You gotta understand, we were only staffed five hours a day and it was locked the other hours,” Purser said.

Since the closure, the Department of Recreation has still sent a payroll attendant out to the park to turn away would-be skaters during posted skating hours. The attendant on duty is responsible for informing skaters of reasons for closure, as well as making sure no one trespasses. The position will be funded until June 30, 2015.

On April 8, a piece of the SkateLite paneling has been removed from this ramp.Photo by Jeremy Collard
On April 8, a piece of the Skatelite paneling has been removed from this ramp.
Photo by Jeremy Collard

“I sit here for about four or five hours a day, where I usually turn away maybe ten people an hour,” recreation attendant Joseph Alas, management marketing sophomore, said while on duty. “That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s somewhere near there.”

Alas also stated that the sign in sheet was a questionable record keeping method, and that it was not uncommon for attendants not to enforce the sign in policy.

According to UNF’s recreation website, the skate park was initially open from sunrise to sunset, but there is no mention of the park in its current state.

The website’s listed hours of operation changed to Monday through Friday from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m., and 1 p.m. until 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. This change occurred with the funding shift after July 1, 2014, as did the re-iteration of the no skate policy without the presence of an attendant.

“Our [UNF] students have complied 100 percent with all the rules and regulations associated with the skate park,” Everett Malcolm, vice president of Student Affairs said.“The challenge we have is non-students who come to the area and utilize our facility.”

Malcolm told Spinnaker in April 2014 that non-students have not signed waivers, and the park is not open to the general public, citing liability issues.

According to the UNF Campus Recreation skate park website, “Use of the park by community requires a weekly pass purchased at the UNF Aquatic Center.” Obtaining this pass may prove to be difficult for community members since the Aquatic Center has been closed down for over a year.

Although there have been no known cases of serious injury at the park, according to Purser, the visibly present damage combined with the lack of guarantee that skaters would avoid those areas, backed the department’s decision to close the park. The department did not want to risk any skaters getting injured.

Finalizing hours of operation has also been an issue for the department, as the park was initially open all day throughout the week. With the advent of the attendant position, limiting park use to the appropriated hours has proved challenging.

When the park first opened in 2007, the Recreation Department chose not to lock the gate because skaters would jump the fence after hours and nearly tear it down.

The SkateLite paneling has been completely removed from this ramp.Photo by Jeremy Collard
The Skatelite paneling has been completely removed from this ramp.
Photo by Jeremy Collard

“The decision was made not to lock it, just leave it open, but have the attendant be there to check ID’s during the busiest times, which are in the afternoon,” Purser said.

Brian Beedle, mathematics junior, typically used the skate park between classes throughout the week. Until last year, Beedle used the park freely during a variety of hours, including early mornings.

“You instituted these policies to where you can only skate from two to sundown, and now you are complaining that it is not being used,” Beedle said. “When policies pretty much directed that there would be a big cutback in use, you cite that as a reason for de-funding and closing it altogether?”

The department of recreation closed the park last month because the Skatelite material was failing and the whole park was deemed to be dangerous. Water intrusion and rotting of the supporting structure was a major issue, according to Purser.

Tim Payne, owner of Team Pain Skate Parks, stated that with proper ventilation, a ramp should dry fairly easily; however, his company typically builds outdoor ramps out of concrete to avoid this situation. Team Pain has built skate parks for over 30 years for agencies including municipal government, community and private projects, as well as for professional skaters.

“It is not uncommon for a park to deteriorate in 7 or 8 years without maintenance,” Payne said. “I have seen them last 15 to 20 years, but they have to be built correctly and maintained regularly.”

On April 11, the ramp with the original damage is seen to have the entire middle panel completely removed. Photo by Jeremy Collard
On April 11, the ramp with the original damage is seen to have the entire middle panel completely removed.
Photo by Jeremy Collard

In January 2005, the Budget and Allocations Committee passed legislation SB-05S-1881, which allocated $250,000 for the construction of the skate park. The final construction budget for the park reached $289,352 in 2007, making the skate park eight years old.

The park was under a five year warranty upon completion of construction in 2007. In 2012, nearly $7,000 was spent repairing sections of the park, according to Purser.

The future of the park rests on obtaining funding, and upon the findings and bids from ramp building companies.

“Right now we are in the process of having contractors come out and look at it to see if it is repairable, or if it has to be rebuilt, and what that cost would be,” Purser said. “We have had Warden [Construction] come out, and we are also having another company come out who is familiar with building ramps. Right now there are no plans to reopen the park.”

The day after Spinnaker spoke with Purser, the skate park began experiencing gradual deconstruction in various sections, over a period of several days.

Spinnaker first attempted to contact Purser on April 1, 2015 and scheduled an interview for April 7. The only visible damage to the park on April 7 was two small holes and cracking on one of the ramps.

The following day, on April 8, Spinnaker found the park to have experienced further small scale disassemblies in two additional sections of the park. The top of the mid-section from the main ramp had Skatelite paneling removed, as did one section from the pyramid-shaped structure in the rear of the park.

Spinnaker attempted to contact Purser for an update after seeing the new deconstruction, but has yet to receive a response.

On April 11, Spinnaker found the park to have experienced widespread degradation. Photo by Jeremy Collard
On April 11, Spinnaker found the park to have experienced widespread degradation.
Photo by Jeremy Collard

On April 11, Spinnaker found the park to have experienced widespread degradation, with every ramp having undergone disassembly, rendering the entire park unusable.

No confirmation as to whether this was conducted by builders has been obtained, and no comment has been made by Purser, even after multiple attempts to reach the department.

“Everyone hates that this park is closing, I skate almost every day,” David Watts, mathematics freshman said. “It was skate-able, all of it was fine except that one small hole and you could easily dodge it.”

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