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Skatepark expansion being considered

By KEVIN GREEN - kgreen@thecouriertimes.com

The New Castle Parks Board is considering an expansion to the “skatepark” on South Main Street and the creation of mountain bike trails through what is known as Trojan Woods just south of the New Castle Fieldhouse parking lot.

Parks board president Patty Broyles said she, Mayor Greg York, representatives from Hunger Skateparks, the firm that designed and helped build the existing facility, and others met earlier this month to discuss the possibility adding 9,100 square feet on the north side of the existing extreme sports park.

Broyles said it has been determined the skatepark needs more features suitable for beginner level skateboarders and BMX bikers and the addition being considered could meet those needs. The work being considered includes a 10X40 observation deck.

Hunger has agreed to provide a rendering, or conceptual drawing, of what the addition would look like. 

Broyles indicated this upgrade to the skatepark will be paid for with funds left over from the food and beverage tax monies awarded to the city by the county and that fundraising will be done to cover any shortfalls.

The board voted to proceed with having plans drawn up, but has not yet authorized the expansion effort itself.

The idea of creating trails through Trojan Woods was also discussed during the recent visit by Hunger representatives. A walking trail through this 40 acres of woods already exists, and it was agreed it should remain intact regardless of whether or not biking trails are added.

Local biking enthusiast Wes Huddleston told the board mountain bike trails would attract an entirely different demographic to New Castle than the skatepark does, but that the two facilities would compliment each other.

Karl Poynter, who owns a local skating and bike shop, agreed and said the terrain available in the wooded area would provide one of the most unique trail biking experiences in the state.

Mayor York said Trojan Woods provides some of the most beautiful terrain in all of Henry County and that his interest is primarily in getting area citizens to visit the area and enjoy what it has to offer.

York also said it is his understanding mountain bike trails work best when the setting remains as natural and undisturbed as possible. For that reason, large trees won’t be cut down and man-made materials such as concrete or even gravel will be used as sparingly as possible.

“I just want that area to be used,” York said. “I’ve walked it myself many times with my grandkids and it’s a fun place. You really should walk it, it’s beautiful. ... I want to see it put to good use and I want to see people appreciate it.”

The cost for developing trails through Trojan Woods is unknown. Hunger has offered to provide a rough plan detailing where they could be located and a good deal of the work involved is expected to be done by volunteers.

Audience member Alan LeDuc questioned both the skatepark expansion and mountain bike trails plan.

He noted the skatepark, an expansion to it, and the Trojan Woods trails are not part of the board’s five-year master plan. He also said the master plan calls for Lowe Park to receive $150,000 this year and that should happen before either the skatepark expansion or trails development receive any funding.

LeDuc essentially accused board members of hiding behind the master plan when issues are brought to their attention they don’t want to deal with and disregarding it when it suits them.

Mayor York said the master plan isn’t set in stone, that it’s a guideline that establishes goals for any given year it covers.

The board eventually voted to proceed with investigating the mountain bike trails idea and having Hunger draw up plans for it. This is a subject that will be revisited at future parks board meetings.

The parks board will next meet at 5:30 p.m. April 2 in council chambers on the second floor of the municipal building, 227 N. Main St., New Castle.

More news from this month’s parks board meeting will be featured in an upcoming edition of The Courier-Times.