VOL. 124 | NO. 234 | Monday, November 30, 2009
A story from The Memphis News
On newsstands throughout the city
Skate Park Advocate Shares Passion About Mud Island
By Bill Dries
ACROBATIC ADVOCATE: Aaron Shafer is an outspoken advocate for dedicating a portion of Mud Island to skateboarders. He’s shown demonstrating his prowess. -- PHOTO BY AMIE VANDERFORD
Aaron Shafer is among the backers of a skate park for Mud Island. He helped organize a strong and vocal skate park contingent at hearings this year on a renovation of the river park, along with www.skatelifememphis.org.
We talked with Shafer about the idea of a Mud Island skate park.
What is the location in the river park that you would prefer for a skate park?
In terms of placement and visibility, you can’t beat the southern tip. You really want to make this something where it’s visible to the public eye, especially considering that they built Beale Street Landing 300 yards away on the other side. That’s the best site. You want it to be open and visible. … I do know that from a logistics standpoint it will have to be well articulated with a path … that you will go around the eastern end of the island and completely bypass the river park itself. You don’t want the skaters going into and out of that area where you’ve got a lot of kids and pedestrian traffic.
I think as long as the public understands and the RDC board understands that we’re going to make a clearly marked trail along that road that goes to the amphitheater, around the Gulf of Mexico – I think it would be great. We’re open to wherever they want to put it. Skaters don’t care where you put it. … If they drive a hundred miles to get there, another half a mile by skate is nothing. It’s not a big deal.
What is the right way to build a skate park?
The right way to do it is to go slow on it and get a lot of public input, especially from skateboarders. Maybe go to three separate designers and hold a contest among them. … Some public skate parks can get really rushed because the skaters want to get out there and skateboard. You want to just take your time and know this is going to be a civic treasure for the city.
The wrong skate park would be going with prefabricated, pre-built, modular types of elements. There are a number of companies out there who will use preassembled metal ramps or even wooden ramps and call them a skate park. That is not a skate park. You definitely want to go with a concrete park just from the standpoint of creativity of the design, as well as the long-term low-maintenance aspect of that type of material. … You are not going to get people out there to skate a wood ramp or a metal ramp. It’s boring.
What about public funding for this?
Unless (Memphis Mayor) A C (Wharton Jr. is) able to push through $2 (million) or $3 million for public funds, I don’t see it really happening. I don’t feel comfortable with asking the project to be completely funded by the city given the economic climate of our country and just the local situation. … That’s a lot of money to ask a city when you’re just trying to just take care of the basics. I’d love to see some private foundations step forward.