By MARY ANN GREIER
A Salem skate park group plans to start soliciting signatures on a petition asking Salem City Council to support a skate park on city-owned land.
The idea of a petition came up Sunday when organizers held a meeting to update each other on what they learned in their research since the initial skate park meeting hosted by Councilman Rick Drummond last month.
A group of about 20 people showed up at Courtyard Square, 645 E. State St., in downtown Salem across from Home Savings to talk about their ideas and what they needed to do next.
Downtown business owner Brandon Mohr acted as moderator and noted that he set up a Facebook page for their cause to try to garner interest and gather more ideas of what people want in a skate park.
The Facebook page is under the name "Skate park for Salem Ohio support group" and already has more than 500 likes. The next meeting of the group is set for 6 p.m. Aug. 17 at Courtyard Square.
The petition being sought will ask Salem City Council to approve a resolution to support the skate park on available city land to be used for construction of the park by skaters and other interested parties for the benefit of everyone in the city. It was also suggested that they have two lists, one for city residents and one for people in the surrounding area which will show their interest in coming to the city for a skate park.
"This can bring kids and families to Salem," Mohr said, stressing that a skate park can be a positive thing if built right and handled properly.
The group also agreed they need to recruit people to get involved in the process, especially the kids who may end up using the skate park, whether they're on skateboards, bikes or rollerblades. Plans call for group members to talk to people at other skate parks and the communities where they're located, to learn both what works and what doesn't work. Mohr said they need to know both the good and the bad.
"That can show us what not to do," he said. "We need to know what failed and why it failed."
The topic of a skate park first came up during a council meeting in May when a woman questioned what's available for kids in the city, asking about a skateboard park. It was discussed further during a Parks Committee meeting, with Parks Director Steve Faber saying a previous skateboard park located in Waterworth Memorial Park was shut down because it became a nuisance. An effort to resurrect a skateboard park several years later failed when a location couldn't be settled upon, even though the group had a $10,000 grant toward the project.
During a previous meeting, Drummond said the parks and the city don't have the money to pay for a skate park, but he also said if the group is looking for land, the city can be asked if any is available. He said the people will have to be the ones to make the skate park happen.
During the meeting Sunday, a lot of focus was placed on a city-owned parking lot at the corner of Pershing and Ellsworth, behind the police station. Group members said it could be an ideal location due to its proximity to the police station and the fire department, in case there would be a problem or someone was injured. The location itself could deter problems.
They also talked about the parks department, but the consensus was to locate a skate park on city-owned property, not in one of the city's parks due to the believed lack of support from park officials. City resident/businessman Scott Cahill said he's more than willing to put money and effort into a skate park, but not for it to be shut down. He said it should be in the downtown area. Mohr said he would like to have about five possible locations lined up.
In talking about funding, he said money is available through foundations by professional skaters, such as Tony Hawk, but city support for the effort could help secure those funds.
Bill and Lisa Cartwright, who own Salem Fun Factory, previously operated an indoor skate park for two years in Austintown for bikes, rollerblades and skateboards. It was 13,000 square feet. Bill Cartwright said "the flow to a park is essential."
He said with bikes, blades and skateboards, there will be some maintenance considerations and there will be issues that come up, which will have to be handled. But he also said that people with skateboards will travel because they like to try different parks.
Connor Loy, of Sebring, who pushed to get the skate park in Alliance, goes there every day even though there's some wear and tear. He said he wanted to get involved in Salem's project and shared information about maintenance and some of the issues there.
Mohr said skating and biking keeps kids occupied. Bill Cartwright said something he noticed when they operated the indoor park was that the kids who came there were there to learn tricks, work on their skills and train, not socialize. They took it seriously and they were focused.
Anyone wanting to get involved can attend the next meeting or visit the Facebook page and give their ideas there. In an effort to promote the skate park, Cahill said he would pay for T-shirts to pass out to kids and supporters.