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Berry Hill Park on Lexington's south side to be home to city's second and largest skate park

A skatepark has been scheduled to be built where a city pool once was at Berry Hill Park on Buckhorn Dr. in Lexington, Ky., on Dec. 29, 2014. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff
A skatepark has been scheduled to be built where a city pool once was at Berry Hill Park on Buckhorn Dr. in Lexington, Ky., on Dec. 29, 2014. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff Lexington Herald-Leader

What is now a grassy field at Berry Hill Park on Lexington's south side soon will become the city's second and largest skate park.

Monday was the groundbreaking for the $600,000 park that will include a "snake run" and a "flow bowl."

The 18,000-square-foot park, planned for completion by late spring or early summer, has been three years in the making.

It has been a long three years for Urban County Council member George Myers, who pushed for the skate park after the city-run pool at the park off Buckhorn Drive was shuttered in 2011.

A vital neighborhood park with lots of activity was important for the entire area, Myers said during Monday morning's chilly ceremony.

"This park is the front door of this neighborhood," Myers said.

Monday's groundbreaking was one of his last official acts as a council member.

Myers, who is completing his fifth term on the Urban County Council, will leave office Sunday. He chose not to run for re-election for his 8th District seat.

The city selected Oregon-based Dreamland Skateparks to design and build the park. Mark Scott, co-owner of Dreamland, said Monday that the crew was starting with site preparation Monday and hoped to have the permits needed to start construction by the end of the week.

Scott said construction typically takes three to four months. The group is used to working in cold weather and can set concrete during the winter.

"We are just happy to be here and are ready to get started," Scott said. The project is special to Dreamland because Burke Morris, one of Dreamland's employees and one of the designers of the Berry Hill skate park, is from Lexington, he said.

Dreamland has built nearly 100 skate parks across the country and in Italy and Austria. "We typically finish ahead of schedule," Scott said.

Dreamland's selection as the designer of Lexington's skate park is a boon, skaters at Monday's groundbreaking said.

"As an engineer and as a skater, Dreamland, in my opinion, is the best skate park builder you could possibly have," said Jonathan Ware, a founding member and former president of the nonprofit Friends for Skateparks.

Ware and Myers said the Berry Hill skate park was the first public investment in a skate park. The city's first skate park, at Woodland Park, was built in 1999 by the nonprofit Triangle Foundation. The foundation then gave the park to the city.

The number of people who participate in adventure or extreme sports has increased dramatically in recent years, even as golf and tennis struggle with declining numbers. The city has to make adjustments to its park system to meet the changing recreational needs of its residents, Myers said.

"It's been underserved in the amount of acreage that is dedicated to it compared to the number of people who skate," Ware said. "If you look at the number of acres dedicated to basketball or golf compared to the number of people who play those sports, skating is a vastly underserved community."

Other cities have built bigger and better skate parks since Woodland was created in 1999, skaters said.

Louisville's Extreme Park was built in 2002. It's more than 40,000 square feet and includes a 24-foot pipe. In comparison, Woodland Park is 12,000 square feet. The city installed a small skate pad at Kirklevington Park in 2012, but it's small and flat, and typically is used by beginners, skaters said.

More than just revitalizing Berry Hill Park, the skate park could be a key economic development tool, backers of the park say. Skaters and BMX riders often travel hours to use parks. That means more money for local businesses, skaters said.

Gavin Duerson, president of Friends for Skateparks, said Woodland was one of the oldest skate parks in Kentucky and one of the smallest. The new park will be designed for older and newer skaters, he said.

"There are more kids skating today than ever before," Duerson said. "It's increased in popularity."

Through a combination of funding sources over several years, the city has set aside $575,000 for the park. The nonprofit Friends for Skateparks also has donated money, bringing the total amount raised to nearly $596,000.

In addition, the Urban County Council voted this year to ask Mayor Jim Gray to put $200,000 in the next budget for restrooms for the park. The bathrooms that served the pool are scheduled to be demolished because of problems with that building.

New bathrooms are a must, Myers said.

"When those bathrooms are gone, there will be no bathrooms in this entire park," Myers said.

Elizabeth Chatterton, Myers' council aide and a board member of Friends for Skateparks, said the group was trying to raise an additional $42,000 to help pay for landscaping, benches, lights and signs.

"We are also looking for in-kind donations such as concrete and wood," Chatterton said.

She said the group also would try to raise money to expand the Berry Hill sake park once it is completed.

"There are other phases of the Berry Hill skate park, such as $80,000 for a peanut bowl that can be added on to the park," Chatterton said. "We wanted to complete the current park first and then raise money for additional phases."

Duerson said the group was trying to get donors to buy bricks for the park for $250 or $500. Donations may be made at the group's website, Friendsforskateparks.com.

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