The concrete has settled, the rails have been installed and the construction equipment has been moved away. Yes, there are signs that say the new Morganton skate park is not officially open. But that didn’t stop skaters from showing up for a session on Saturday.
Multiple skaters from Morganton and surrounding areas came to test out the new park Saturday morning with some approval from city leaders.
While the park may shut down again next week to install electricity to the facility, Parks and Recreation Director Rob Winkler said Friday that he did not plan to keep people from using the park over the weekend.
Eliot Lytle, the owner of Pop Shop Skateboards in Morganton, was among the people skating Saturday and was one of the driving forces behind the most recent push for the park to be built.
“I just wanted somewhere to skate,” Lytle said. “I had purely selfish motivations. I’m taking it easy today, getting warmed up. I’m a little older than these guys, so I skate within my limits.”
And it’s the younger generation that Lytle said can most benefit from the park. While some longtime skaters have gotten into trouble over the years, young skaters now will have a fun and constructive place to learn and grow, he said.
“It changes the paradigm for the next generation of skaters coming up,” Lytle said. “You know, it’s something they can do for fun. They don’t necessarily have to live it as a lifestyle like some of these guys do.”
Lytle said he believes the park will become the “hometown” park for Morganton, Lenoir, Glen Alpine, Hickory and Marion. He also said he has heard of people coming to the park from Boone and Asheville.
“This kind of thing is scary for small towns,” Lytle said. “They don’t really have a lot of point of reference for it, so props to Morganton for like progressing and showing up and getting it done.”
The park features multiple rails, a fun box and a bowl. Lytle said the large size of the park is impressive when looking at the size of the budget.
The city received a $15,000 grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation in July to help pay for the remaining construction costs. Winkler said about $180,000 already had been allocated from multiple groups to pay for the park, which was constructed by Artisan Skateparks.
But it’s not just the size skaters said they were impressed with Saturday — it also was the quality.
“It feels good to be (excited) for something for so long and it come out so great,” said skater Addison Hess. “It’s awesome. Seriously, they did a great job.”
Hess said he lives in Marion and that if he wanted to skate in at a park similar to the one in Morganton, he would have to travel to Asheville or Hendersonville.
And Dario Rocha — he has traveled even further over the years. Although he now lives in North Carolina, he grew up skating at parks in his home state of California.
“We had a lot of parks out there,” Roach said. “This is like the third time I’ve skated here. It’s got a great flow to it, man. If you don’t know how to skate transition, you’ll learn real quick.”
Transition skating, or vert skating, is the style that skateboarders will use at the park. It involves using the elements in the park, such as the ramps and bowls, to perform tricks.
Skaters are required to wear elbow pads, knee pads and helmets while at the park. However, the park is not monitored, and the rule is in place to rid the city of any liability for injuries.
“This is a big ol’ deal right here, man,” Rocha said. “This town was damn-near like skateboarding was illegal almost. So them getting a skate park is a big step up, man.”
Ryan Wilusz is a staff writer and can be reached at email@example.com or at 828-432-8941.