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Skate Park property sold, new location needed

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By Machaela Ballard

 Officials must find a new home for the La Grange skate park equipment after the city’s council voted to sell the property where it is currently located during a June meeting.

The property, at Second and Main streets across from the La Grange Police station, was sold for $1 to Billy Doelker for economic purposes.

According to Mayor Joe Davenport, Doelker agreed to utilize 50 percent of the space as retail establishments. His intention for the remainder of the space was not disclosed, however the mayor stated he believed it was intended to be used as office space.

Despite the council’s majority approval, there was one dissenting vote. Trey Kamer said he had two reasons for voting against the sale.

“There hasn’t been anything for certain as far as finding anywhere for the skate park to be located. That was one reason. The other was that I wasn’t really excited about the closing value it sold for,” Kamer said. “I do realize that having some development there in that part of town can bring in more tax dollars, but if it had been sold for a more reasonable amount, that money could have been used for helping relocate the skate park.”

The skate park does not fall under the responsibility of the city’s parks and recreation department, the mayor said. Regardless, several components of the city maintain the park in its current location. For instance, the public works department regularly empties the trashcan.

Because there is no governing body in charge of the park, a few community members have taken up the obligation of finding a new space for the park. Regardless of the technicality, the parks and recreation department has led efforts to find a space to move the equipment. But simply transferring the skate park might not be so simple, said Blake Haselton of the parks board.

“There are a limited number of locations with the desired space, location, access, parking, visibility and availability,” Haselton said. “The park board has been identifying potential locations, have eliminated several, learned several others were not feasible, available or accessible, and we are currently working on one location that has potential.”

If a suitable area is found for the five pieces of metal skate park equipment, it is actually possible that it could be enlarged or reduced, Davenport said, adding that there are several pieces of the park that have been in storage for years.

The equipment was purchased in 2009 with a portion of a $200,000 donation from George Rawlings, owner of The Rawlings Group in La Grange.

While resting beneath a tree that shades part of the park, several skateboarders expressed that they will continue to enjoy their access to skating as much as they can while they await the fate of their favorite pastime in the city.

Jade Larimore, the mother of a 14-year-old skater, said she fears her son will have no other place to exercise if the park is moved too far from her downtown home.

“It keeps him off the Xbox,” Larimore explained. “He’s not an athletic kid otherwise, and this provides the active outlet he needs. For the kids that don’t play football or soccer, this is a reason to be outside.”

The skate park also helps prevent skateboarders from utilizing public structures, Haselton said, adding that the parks department is doing all it can to ensure the park remains part of the city’s amenities.

“The skate park provides a venue for our youth, and also eliminates the need for them to skate on streets, curbs, stairwells and rails,” Haselton said. “We hope to be able to relocate the skate park and would welcome any thoughts or ideas regarding a new location. We welcome this project and hope we can retain the skate park as a new part of the city park system.”