ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Inspired by a youthful outcry, Alpharetta will open a pop-up skateboard facility at Union Hill Park this week.
The impromptu facility comes less than a month after the City Council voted to prohibit skateboarding in the core downtown and within public parking facilities. That action came after downtown residents complained of the constant din from the wheels racing over pavers at City Center. Residents, including some council members, said the skateboarders presented a hazard to pedestrian and street traffic.
All agreed skateboarders have no place in parking decks, where the inclines have drawn a regular crowd of coasters.
In the wake of the city’s action, a group of skateboard advocates launched a petition this month to encourage officials to explore a permanent facility for their constituency. So far, the petition, available at change.org/Alpharetta, has more than 875 signatures.
DJ Snyder, an Alpharetta High School graduate now living in North Carolina, said he launched the campaign to spread the word among all his friends in Alpharetta.
Snyder, 27, said he remains close to the local skateboard community and wanted to pursue a solution.
“This is something for the community and for the upcoming youngsters, the younger people who don’t have places to skate,” he said.
Back when he was in high school, Snyder said, kids would use the surfaces at Wills Park for skateboarding.
“They had the baseball fields, the football fields, a horse park, even a Frisbee Golf course, but there was nothing for skateboarders,” he said. “We would skateboard down the rails and on the ledges, down the stairsteps. Then, we’d get kicked out.”
Bray Hayden, 27, a lifelong Alpharetta resident, said he remembers mounting a drive 10 years ago for a skateboard park. He launched a petition that eventually carried some 2,000 signatures, but the city backed out after showing some initial interest.
“The City Council guys were like, ‘we don’t want to bring a punk image to Alpharetta,’” Hayden recalled. “I think the negative image of the skateboarder has gone down a lot, and we’ve got some younger people in the city, so this is an opportunity.”
Hayden said he takes his children skating regularly, but the opportunities are limited. The nearest skateboard park is at Fowler Park in Cumming.
“There’s no safe place to skateboard in Alpharetta that’s not illegal,” he said. “That predisposes them to interactions with the police.”
Snyder said he recognizes that skateboard parks are expensive, and the city can’t shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars in the middle of a recession. Still, he said, the skateboard community is ready to pitch in.
So far, no one with the city has begun researching a full-fledged skate park, said Assistant City Administrator James Drinkard.
“We don’t even have a design,” he said. “But we are committed to continuing to discuss it with the skateboarders.”
Publicskateparkguide.com, an online resource for advocates and park planners, puts the average price to design and build a skatepark at $45 a square foot. Its industry survey places the cost of a 3,000-square-foot park, capable of accommodating a few skaters at a time, at about $145,000. A 16,000-square-foot skatepark, capable of supporting a large neighborhood and patrons from the region, would cost about $720,000.
Drinkard said it would be important to include skateboarders on the design process, because it makes no sense to build a park that had no users.
Snyder said he knows people within his network who are capable of contributing design plans. He said he also knows people willing to contribute with fund drives.
“We’re all about creating a solution,” Snyder said. “In Alpharetta — it’s a very nice community — I think we can manage a park that’s reasonable for both sides that keeps [skateboarders] excited and off the streets.”