Skatepark advocacy group disbands, backs private Dickinson location
By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector
Monday, August 6, 2018
A nonprofit group that formed to advocate for the construction of a public skate park in the city has boarded up its operation and donated the entirety of its funds to the construction of a private park off Dickinson Avenue.
The organization, Greenville Advocates for Public Skateparks, or GAPS, a group of skaters and community members working to create a new public park for skating enthusiasts, announced it was shutting down its efforts in July.
The group began raising funds in 2016 in hopes developing a modern park to replace what they said is an outdated facility at Jaycee Park on Cedar Lane. Organizers said they made some progress with the city since then, but delays and bureaucratic minutia frustrated their efforts.
“It was like we were stuck in a never-ending story of bureaucratic red tape,” said Ben Herd, a GAPS organizer. “Couple that with a political changing of the guard, and it just felt like nobody could get on the same page. I’m a very high-energy person and I’m used to things moving at a faster pace than the cogs in the cities big wheel would allow it to turn.”
Herd said the group did make strides with the city, having meetings regarding design and site selection over the years. In July 2017, efforts included a helicopter ride with then Mayor Allen Thomas, during which the group selected a tobacco warehouse on North Greene Street as a potential site for the project. However since, Herd said much of the momentum from the city disappeared.
Mayor P.J. Connelly said Friday that he has a meeting set with City Manager Ann Wall to discuss the issue and did not want to comment further about the city’s plans for a skatepark until after the meeting.
Instead of continuing their work with the city, GAPS has donated its remaining funding, $1,700, to local business owner Alvin Gardner to help buy supplies for a private facility at Pedals and Pistons on Dickinson Avenue.
The bike shop specializes in the repair and sale of used bicycles, but Gardner said building the skate park is a natural extension to his effort to support BMX and skating in the city.
Gardner, a supporter of GAPS, said he has been working on his project for months — learning how to pour and shape concrete through trial and error and determination.
He aims to build multiple concrete ramps at the business, located in the heart of budding area of the city, for skaters and other riding sport enthusiasts to feel at home, he said.
“In building a DIY spot for both BMX and skateboards, I’m trying to bridge the gaps — all puns intended — between bikers and boarders on a very big decision that will change active sports in Greenville forever,” he said.
Herd said he has high hopes that Gardner’s project will be an asset for the community and praised Gardner’s dedication to the project.
“Nobody gets rich building a skate park on the property,” he said. “Alvin isn’t doing this for profit so much as he is to provide a place for skaters and bikers to ride and congregate.”
Though GAPS has disbanded, Herd said he hopes that Gardner’s park and the GAPS contribution will make a lasting change and symbolize why they group existed.
“My hope is that Alvin’s creation will somehow be a beacon of light for others to see ... and be inspired to do something themselves,” he said. “What he’s doing is heart-and-soul type stuff. Alvin is like Kevin Costner in ‘The Field of Dreams’: If you build it, they will come.”
Contact Seth Gulledge at Sgulledge@reflector.com and 329-9579. Follow him on Twitter @GulledgeSeth