Bobbie Jo Sawyers spends most afternoons watching her daughter Abigail at the skateboard park inside Recreation Acres in King. She said some people may not realize it, but her 13-year-old struggles with autism and depression and in the past year has found solace riding a skateboard at her local park.
“She loves it. There’s no greater joy as a mom, than to see her smiling. The kids here have been so welcoming to her and I’m really grateful for it.”
In December, the mother and daughter visited the park and found a lock on the gate, with a handwritten note saying it was closed for repairs. Nearly a month passed before it reopened, and there were still gaping holes in ramps and dangerous cracks along the concrete, according to Sawyers.
“I appreciate what’s been done, but I believe we can do better for these kids. I think they deserve better.”
Sawyers followed the lead of her daughter and began a petition on change.org requesting the city council safely accommodate skaters and consider expanding the park. In a matter of weeks, more than 1,800 people signed the petition and many reached out to ask how they could become involved.
“I took a walk around Recreation Acres and there are five soccer fields and seven ballfields. I think that’s great, but I think we need to invest in everyone, because not all kids are geared towards team sports. It feels like we’re leaving some kids out,” she said.
Sawyers believes there’s a misconception about skaters, and she understands it because she once felt the same way.
“When Abigail took an interest in it, I was there watching every second. But what I’ve found is a great diverse group of very supportive and welcoming kids. Not everyone is your typical all-American baseball kid, but that’s what makes us all unique. It’s something that should be cultivated and nurtured, not disregarded.”
King Town Manager Homer Dearmin explained the park has been closed in the past following vandalism reports.
“We’re continuing to monitor the park daily to ensure that it remains safe, but we can’t have someone there 24/7. We ask that if you see vandalism or any other destructive or illegal activity taking place, please contact the King Police Department. If patrons of the skate park will take care of the facility, it will be to everyone’s benefit.”
Dearmin said the skate park has been discussed at recent parks and recreation advisory committee and city council meetings. As of now, there are no plans for additions or renovations, but he anticipates discussion at upcoming budget meetings.
Andrew Tuttle, a regular skater at the skate park, approached the city council two years ago about reports of vandalism.
“We’re not the ones vandalizing it and it’s frustrating to us when we come to skate and there’s a mess here or the gates are locked. We’re the ones who clean up. When it’s closed, we end up having to go to Winston-Salem or Kernersville. We’d much rather be here,” he said.
Even though Tuttle enjoys the hometown feel of the skate park, he wishes the city would invest in improvements, from a safety standpoint and to attract other skaters.
“This place has been the same for years and it doesn’t offer what a lot of other parks have. From an economic standpoint, if we had a nicer skate park, it would bring in more revenue. Anybody that comes and skates, they’re going to get thirsty and they’re going to get hungry. They’ll buy those things here.”
Thomas Juarez grew up skateboarding and said it’s a big part of his life.
“It’s close to my house; I spend a lot of time here. There’s obstacles we’d like to skate that aren’t here. There’s things that exist naturally in architecture that they haven’t replicated here, which is one of the reasons they make skate parks. You skate these things that naturally occur, but they’re out of the way of other people. You’re not running into cars or hitting people. I’d really like to see stairs or a loading dock here. There’s nothing to drop down from. This would be more utilized if it had more of the basics.”
Juarez said most skate parks offer overhead lights and a bench, or place to sit down, something the King park is lacking.
“If you don’t skate here, kids end up on the road skating and it’s dangerous. We just want somewhere safe to skate.”
Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426.