City seeking grant to build skate park

Published 12:03 am Friday, March 11, 2011

If the money comes through, skateboarders in Vicksburg will have a designated place to play.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Thursday — except North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield, who was away on personal business — voted to apply for up to $100,000 in grant monies from the Mississippi Recreational Trails Program, which falls under the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks outdoor recreation grants division, to build a skate park near City Pavilion on Lee Street.

“A lot of our young people are skateboarding in the city streets,” Mayor Paul Winfield said at Thursday’s board meeting. “We get complaints about that and, after talking to quite a few of the (skaters), they asked us if they could have a skate park. And this is positive.”

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The deadline to apply for the funds is March 24, and the grant requires a local match.

The 5,000-square-foot skate park would join the playground, swimming pools, ball fields and walking trail already in the area. The trail would get a touch-up if the grant money is awarded.

“We’ve been talking about this for a while now, but this is the first time we’ve been able to find some funding,” city Parks and Recreation Director Joe Graves said. “If this grant comes through, it’ll give us another avenue to reach kids because not every kid plays softball, baseball or basketball.”

Graves said Vicksburg officials have met with other cities that have built skate parks.

“We’ve talked to the city clerks at Tupelo and Oxford, and they said there was no increase in their liability insurance,” he said. “We were worried it would increase our liability insurance, but it won’t.”

Graves said admission to the park would be free, with a fee charged for safety equipment rental. In doing some research, he said, he found that skateboarding is among the top five sports in the country.

In Vicksburg, skaters are using makeshift ramps on city streets and county roads.

“There are a bunch of kids I know who skate, and they all say we need a skate park,” said Zac Brewer, 17, the son of Kevin and Robin Moore. “We need a safe skate spot.”

His mother agrees.

“Skating gives them something to do, and it keeps them out of trouble,” she said. “It’s not any more dangerous than any other sport.”

In other business, the board agreed to modify an inspection contract with Transystem, an engineering firm involved in the Clark Street bridge at Washington Street improvement project. City engineer Garnet Van Norman told the board that the not-to-exceed $84,000 in funds set aside for inspection was used to repair a slide failure near the bridge in the spring of 2009. On Thursday, the board put that money back into the project’s $8.6 million contract fund.

“We were out of inspection money because they used it to do the slope repair two years ago,” Van Norman said. “We have to add this money back into the Washington Street project so Transystem can watch the city’s interest.”

The project, which will feature a roadway-topped rail tunnel, is expected to be complete by June.