A new skate park is in the works for Walton County.
The project began in 2015, but Louis Svehla, Walton County public information manager, said the county hopes to finally have the park operational by the spring of 2019.
The concrete skate park will be located in Helen McCall Park, adjacent to the west parking lot.
Mike Sturdivant, a board member of the Walton Skate Society, said that with no public or private skate park in Walton County, skaters are forced to use sidewalks, streets, parking lots and unfinished development projects.
"This skate park will forever cement our community's embrace of a healthy surf and skate lifestyle," Sturdivant said, adding the group has been working on getting a skate park built for about 10 years. "It's time for our local artisans and athletes to be showcased and for our youth to be inspired and celebrated. It's time to build a skate park.”
Sturdivant said one of the biggest problems they’ve faced is educating the county on the importance of having a facility for a low-cost sport like skateboarding.
“Skateboarding, as a sport, is an economic equalizer,” Sturdivant said. “Many children cannot afford to play organized sports and don’t have the transportation or support to attend games and tournaments. Skateboarding is inexpensive, provides its own transportation, can be practiced even when away from the park and provides positive health and social benefits."
As of now, the county has about $100,000 set aside for the project, $60,000 coming from recreational plat fees, $30,000 from the Walton Skate Society and $10,000 from a Tony Hawk Foundation grant.
The Tony Hawk Foundation works to empower youth by helping create skate parks in the U.S. Money granted by the foundation can be used only during the actual construction phase.
Miki Vuckovich, the foundation’s executive director, said that’s because constructing the park seems to be the most difficult part to raise money for. In addition, all funds given by the foundation have an expiration date.
“Tony Hawk Foundation Skate Park Grants are issued with a three-year window,” Vuckovich said. “The skate park should be completed by then. Projects that receive THF grants are also connected with our programs team, who train and assist skate park advocates throughout the process. So many obstacles and delays can be avoided with our involvement.”
Walton County plans to spend around $400,000 in total on the project. To make it more affordable, construction will occur in phases. The completed phases will ultimately be linked together, but they will not be dependent upon one another.
Currently, the county is negotiating a design contract with New Line Skate Parks. Once an agreement is reached, Svehla will present his recommendation to the Walton County Board of Commissioners. If approved, the park will be designed.
Svehla expects the design process to take about 22 weeks. He hopes that having an official design will boost the park’s momentum, along with an increase in public funding.
The county will then take construction bids and begin building the park shortly thereafter.
“I would say the earliest something could be skateable, even if it’s phase one, realistically would be spring of 2019," Svehla said. "… If fundraising goes gangbusters, the whole thing gets built faster. If it doesn’t, some phases may never be built.”