With the push of a foot, skateboarders propelled their skateboards forward and performed tricks in the new Faulkner Skate Park before and after a ribbon-cutting formal grand opening ceremony for the facility Saturday on Cumberland Road.
Skateboarder Andrew Terpening said builders “did a great job.” He observed that the new skate park on the western side of Faulkner Park has a lot of obstacles, such as rail, that the deteriorating skate park at Noble E. Young Park is lacking.
“The quality of it is so much better than the old one. It’s really smooth,” said Terpening, 25, who started skateboarding when he was 7 and wanted to do whatever his cousin was doing. He goes skateboarding mostly in Tyler, but also drives to Dallas and Houston and other places to skateboard.
In an interview, Mayor Martin Heines said Faulkner Park was already a “great asset” for the city and that adding the skate park component to it just means that more and more people are welcome to enjoy the facility.
He added, “Our role and responsibility as the council is to make sure we are providing a venue for families to come out and enjoy the park. We are happy that this is a new component to Faulkner Park.”
Other accommodations at Faulkner Park include baseball fields, tennis courts and hiking trails.
District 1 City Council member Linda Sellers told a crowd on hand for the opening of the new skate park, “I know Mr. (Bob) Faulkner would be so proud to see you all here and to be able to enjoy this wonderful addition to the property that he donated to the city for Faulkner Park.”
Sellers thanked city employees who were instrumental in the design and helping build the skate park and bringing the project to fruition, including Russ Jackson, director of parks and recreation, and Leanne Robinette, senior manager of parks, recreation and tourism.
Sellers said, “This was a community build project, so not only was the city involved, but those of you who love skating were involved. That makes it equally important to us when the community gets involved in projects.” She applauded skaters who helped design the skate park.
Jeff Reeves, of the East Texas Skatepark Association, said that for anybody who wants to skate, the new Faulkner Skate Park is now here. He added, “I’m very excited and very happy. Thank you for your support.”
Sellers noted that the city has done a lot to improve parks and is now working on the swimming pool at Fun Forest Park.
Jackson said in an interview that the Faulkner Skate Park, which covers 3,500 square feet and unofficially opened about a month ago, was professionally designed and professionally installed to meet the top of today’s building codes. “We wanted to build it to last,” Jackson said.
It is the first phase of a six-phase skate park, each phase to range in size from 3,500 square feet to 5,000 square feet.
The first phase was funded with city funds earmarked for the project through the capital improvement program through the parks department and with some donations.
The city has a preliminary plan and a preliminary design layout for each future phase, but getting the other phases completed could be a 10-year process, Jackson said. He pointed out that the first phase took almost a year from its concept to its opening.
Design and construction of the first phase cost “right at $200,000,” Jackson said. Other costs associated with the project included a ground survey and dirt work, $5,000 to $10,000; ground work and irrigation, $4,000 to $5,000; and solar lights still to be installed.
Work on the next phase might start next year or the year after, Jackson said. How the project progresses depends on available funding, he added, noting that the city might provide matching funds for grants and that the project needs donations.
Skateboarder Sarah Allison said Phase 1 “is awesome. I wish it were bigger but within phases, it will get there. I love it. It’s really good for the kids to learn on.”
The new skate park is closer than the old one, she said. Skateboarding brings her family together. Allison said, “It gets us all out here and active together.”
Allison, 27, used to skate when she was about 15 with her brother, dropped out and took it up again when she was 23 and her daughter had turned 3.
She is learning the 50-50 grinds and other tricks while Chase Mieko, 12, a beginner, is trying to learn to do “the Ollie.”
Learning skateboarding tricks is easier when you are starting out younger, Allison said. “When you get older, you try not to break anything because you have to get up and go to work in the morning.”
Stephen Hughes, 26, who has been skateboarding 18 years, said Faulkner Skate Park is safer than the old skate park because it is close to the Faulkner police station and it is cleaner.
The new park has ledges, stairs and other amenities incorporated for skateboarders to navigate. “For the size it is right now, they have some really good obstacles and things like that,” Hughes said, adding that the new park invites kids on the south side of town that maybe would not travel to the other side of town to skateboard and it has better concrete.
Hughes said skateboarding is a good way to relieve stress and do what you want to do without getting into trouble.