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by Eric Ginsburg

Residents agreed on rough designs for an outdoor skatepark and a smaller skate spot in Greensboro at the final public forum last week, helping the city move ahead on the long-awaited park. 

If anyone showed up at the city of Greensboro’s public forum nervous that some developer would come in and muck up plans for the city’s skatepark, they would’ve breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing Brad Siedlecki at the front of the room.

Wearing a pair of Vans, a white T-shirt and a snap-back hat, and sporting a full tattoo sleeve and some facial stubble, Siedlecki looked the part of a classic thirty- or fortysomething skater.

The 50 or so people who traipsed into Glenwood Recreation Center to hear him speak on March 23, several of them with skateboards in hand, welcomed Siedlecki in a way that’s somewhat rare at government meetings. Siedlecki, who works with Arizona-based Pillar Design Studios, ran through various plans for the large skatepark and smaller neighborhood-oriented skate spot with only cosmetic pushback from the audience representing diverse skating interests and a wide age range.

Considering that voters approved a $575,000 bond for a skatepark in Greensboro a decade ago, and especially given the lightning speed at which neighboring Winston-Salem has pursued a permanent skatepark within its borders in the last year, it would be reasonable to expect such a public forum to be contentious. Such forums can lean that way regardless of the subject, but with competing desires and possibly some pent up frustration in town, Siedlecki and the city successfully moved forward with a cohesive plan for the park that considers public input.

That’s thanks in large part to the fact that the city assembled a skatepark advisory team early last year, consisting of residents with varied ties to skating who could help provide input and spread the word. The team helped pull in a wide array of attendees, including several young skateboarders who eagerly shared their input at their meeting, exemplifying the sort of community outreach other government meetings aspire towards.

The old heads were there too, including team member Fabio Camara. The professional photographer, who skated competitively as a kid in Brazil and who’s still active on a board in his forties, helped unify two competing factions at the meeting to agree on a path forward last week.

Siedlecki arrived with two drawings for the skatepark, which will be erected in a long, narrow strip between a gravel drive and a greenway at Latham Park off of Hill Street, just northwest of downtown and Green Hill Cemetery. One drawing placed more emphasis on an impressive bowl while the other shifted the focus to street-style components. When city staff polled the room, attendees split perfectly in half and the two designs tied.

Given the available budget, as well as the limited space of the site which is also sandwiched between the cemetery and Buffalo Creek, Siedlecki’s firm wouldn’t be able to erect half of each design. But after some debate, Camara proposed a fusion approach that would scale down the bowl and maintain most of the street-style aspects, and attendees readily accepted his idea.

Much of the community discussion remained in the weeds — offering thoughts on specific components of the design that Siedlecki said could easily be switched out for others — so much so that city staff struggled to keep up with the terminology at several points.

Not to worry, Siedlecki reassured them, he was catching everything Greensboro’s skaters were throwing at them.

The skatepark will replace a small basketball court that is in a mild state of disrepair, but Parks Department Director Wade Walcutt said in an interview that the city will try and relocate a hoop on the site or nearby if possible, noting that the court isn’t as well used as others such as the nearby Lake Daniel hoops.

The city will also build a smaller, more modest skate spot behind Glenwood Rec Center, and while there’s no money currently available, the city and its skatepark advisory team identified possible locations for more small skate spots in each district of the city for future expansion.

The Glenwood location in south Greensboro will utilize an existing slab of concrete behind the building, and meeting attendees debated which of Siedlecki’s three designs for the site to pursue given the varying price tags on each. Initially, several people said they’d like to short the Glenwood spot in favor of souping up the skatepark, but others objected, saying neighborhood kids and folks with less confidence on a board would really benefit from the site. When Siedlecki circled back to the skate spot as the meeting wound down, attendees seemed to agree on a modified version of the mid-range plan as a compromise while switching out specific elements for some features they preferred and that could help keep costs down.

Many of the people who turned out for last week’s meeting said they also attended the city’s previous public-input session when organizers asked, but this time, staff had to retrieve extra chairs to accommodate the turnout. Since the first session, residents offered additional feedback and ideas for the two sites which Siedlecki incorporated into the drawings he brought last week, and city staff expect an updated version by early next week.

City staff hopes to move quickly on the two locations, especially the simpler Glenwood site, though there isn’t a specific timeline yet. Though it’s been a decade, skaters at last week’s meeting seemed energized by how close the park is to finally being a reality.

Meanwhile, Winston-Salem holds the grand opening for its new permanent skatepark at the Fairgrounds Annex this Saturday at 11 a.m.

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