Wednesday, June 29, 2022

After requests from community, Oak Island officially makes moves to rebuild skate park lost to Isaias

Oak Island’s Kevin Bell State Park was destroyed by Hurricane Isaias. The town council will vote to approve a design contract on a replacement park. (Courtesy photo)

OAK ISLAND — Oak Island skate shop owner Matt Troetti was worried when Kevin Bell Skate Park was destroyed by Hurricane Isaias in August 2020. Not only would it impact future business at Never Ever Boards, but as a community advocate for skate parks, Troetti felt it was his duty to ensure a replacement was erected.

“We need to build something for our youth,” Troetti wrote on a petition he started Aug. 16. “We need a place for events, tournaments and a community hub. We need to create an outlet that is positive and will be used safely by our youth and families.”.

More than 1,500 people signed off on the “Rebuild Oak Island’s Skate Park” petition. When Troetti posted it to Never Ever Board’s Instagram account, the petition garnered more than 1,600 likes and hundreds of shares. Troetti called it proof “this is what people want.”

Troetti posted the petition as the town council was considering a pump track in the skate park’s place. A pump track is a series of slopes, wrapped in an oval formation, generating momentum-based body movements.

“It’s catered toward bikes,” Troetti explained. “There is a learning curve; you can’t be a simple, basic beginner and use it. It could be dangerous.”

While a pump track is being considered as a future add-on for Phase II, a newly designed skate park is the first step.

“I was quite surprised at the overwhelming outpouring of concern and interest in the park,”  Mike Emory, spokesperson for the Town of Oak Island, said. “Of all the various features and amenities of the town, it was pretty interesting how strong the town came together with communication to town officials and elected officials that this was a priority to see resurrected.”

At its November meeting, the town council approved a bid for the contract to rebuild the skate park, with $300,000 allocated in the town’s approved fiscal 2022 budget. Leadership will now vote on awarding that contract to designer Artisan Skateparks at Tuesday’s council meeting.

When Kevin Bell Skate Park was damaged, it was declared unrepairable and therefore leveled to the ground. The property on East Beach Drive currently sits empty, aside from destruction debris. It will likely be the location for the new build, in spite of discussions proposing its move next to the pickleball courts one block over.

“The space is already cleared and already paved,” Emory said. “It’s more cost efficient and offers a larger space. There is less to do as far as preparation.”

As for the concept, Emory said it will be a complete design overhaul.

“Anybody familiar with the old park probably would not recognize it,” he said. “It will be a ground-up build from scratch.”

Once the contract with Artisan is approved, the town will host public meetings in the first quarter of 2022 for design input and suggestions. 

The original timeline proposed a groundbreaking in February 2022, but Emory said, due to the rise in material costs and labor shortage issues, a fall 2022 construction start date is more likely.

Troetti said the skate park benefits more than the locals. It draws in tourists too.

“People want to visit here more because we have this extra amenity and it gives visitors one more reason to come back,” he said.

Growing up in Oak Island, Troetti found solace in the 20-year-old skate park as a rare amenity outside the beaches. Once he opened Never Ever Boards in 2019 and began hosting events at the park, he witnessed a shift in demographics.

“A lot of people started coming just to spectate. It was mostly the older population,” he said. “It was really interesting to me that they were so accepting of it. I thought we’d receive pushback.”

Quite the opposite occurred, he said.

“They became some of our biggest supporters and advocates.”

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