New draft of Westover Skate Park designs to be unveiled soon

People standing in front of designs on easels
People give their input to designs they like most by placing stickers at a Jan. 22 public event. (Photo by Adaire Adams)

Harrisonburg officials have received American Ramp Company’s proposed designs for the new Westover Skate Park and will unveil the designs to the public in the next couple weeks, following controversy with last year’s original design.

The skate park’s redesign comes after the city held a public engagement event in January to get feedback from people regarding amenities they want. The city also conducted a survey. American Ramp Company used the collected information to propose designs that are most appealing, especially those in the skating community. 

Plans for a news skate park have been more than a year in the making. Last spring, after the city unveiled an initial draft, skaters and others in Harrisonburg pushed back on the design, which included ramps made of steel instead of concrete. Some skaters said the steel — especially on hot, sunny days — can be especially painful to touch or fall on. 

Michael Parks, the city’s communications director, said construction for the skate park could begin as early as fall of this year, although the park itself will be smaller because of the decision to go with concrete. 

“Our money is not going to stretch as far with concrete because it’s a more expensive material for us to use out there,” Parks said. 

The city, along with representatives from American Ramp Company, allowed people to provide their feedback about design options during a Jan. 22 meeting. Those attending the public engagement received three green stickers and one red sticker to use to indicate their preferences for designs. They could place green stickers on specific features they liked and the red stickers on overall designs they preferred.  

The two members of the American Ramp Company who attended, Cody McEntire and Julia Brueckler, are professional skateboarders and designers assigned to this project.

“We don’t always have community engagement meetings,” Brueckler said. “Sometimes we have pretty much nothing to go off of. Then we just kind of try and have a good mix of a little bit of everything.” 

Brueckler said these kinds of meetings are important because they give her an idea of what the locals want, and she can work to build a design based off of that.

McEntire, who traveled from California for the event, said the community’s feedback is the “biggest thing” in the design process.

“Skateboarding kind of brings the local community together,” McEntire said. “It’s just a place to go and hangout and grow up and live your life. This is a little too philosophical: it’s a damn skate park at the end of the day, but it is. It’s a part of your life and childhood.” 

Two people pose for the camera with renderings of skate park designs in the background
American Ramp Company’s Julia Brueckler and Cody McEntire are professional skateboarders and designers who attended the January public event for people in Harrisonburg to give their input. (Photo by Adaire Adams)

A couple dozen people of all ages showed up to ask Brueckler and McEntire questions about designs and skating as they placed their stickers on their preferred prospective designs.

Parks said this project is possible due to the grant from the American Rescue Plan Act, which Congress passed in 2021 providing millions of dollars for local governments. Parks said people in Harrisonburg — and the city council — wanted part of this grant to go toward parks and recreational amenities. The city has budgeted $475,000 specifically for the skate park project.

“We realized that we needed to go out and get more public engagement. We should’ve done that to begin with,” Parks said.

Skaters frequently used Westover Skate Park before it became a pile of rocks, forcing people to travel to places like Staunton to skate.

Trent Moss, a JMU alumnus, spent most of his time in college using the Westover Skate Park before it was demolished. He feels strongly about the park being made with concrete, considering he has been skating for the majority of his life and feels for the locals. Carter Smithson, junior at JMU, has been skateboarding for 15 years and shares similar views with Moss; they both hope to see a concrete skate park.

Both Moss and Smithson said they have been using the skate park in Staunton, 35 minutes away from Harrisonburg, much to their dismay.

But Smithson, who didn’t attend the Jan. 22 event, said he liked what he saw in a photo of the design that received the most positive feedback that night. That design included different features, such as a mini-bowl, curbs, various flatbars and several ramps. 

“If they make this with a bad material, that’s where it’s going to ruin it, but this looks awesome,” Smithson said. “That looks great, I would put some stickers on that for sure.”

A drawing of a new skate park has clusters of green and red stickers
People attending a Jan. 22 event could share their opinion about what overall designs and specific amenities they liked most by placing stickers. (Photo by Adaire Adams)

Even though Parks said that using concrete instead of steel will result in a smaller skate park, the community will ultimately be satisfied with the material chosen. 

While the city and American Ramp Company are still working with the feedback they have received from the public to create a design, local skaters say they’re resigned to traveling elsewhere to skateboard for now.

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