COMMUNITY; GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT
By Fraser Sherman
Chapel Hill has budgeted $500,000 to renovate Chapel Hill Skate Park at 100 Northern Park Drive and another $785,000 to make town playgrounds more accessible and inclusive for kids with disabilities.
The problem with the skate park, Senior Park Planning and Operations Manager Kevin Robinson told The Local Reporter, is that the facility is over 20 years old and shows its age: “It’s the infrastructure. The supports underneath are failing. It must be completely renovated to be a viable and safe skate park.”
Robinson said the ramps at the 10,000-square-foot skate park are built out of wood and Skatelite, a durable paper composite material used for riding surfaces. The facility is free to all and unsupervised, but Robinson said because it is next door to Chapel Hill’s aquatic center, city staff are available if needed.
The town recently held two public sessions soliciting users’ opinions on which features the city should include in the renovation. Possible skate obstacle designs include China Banks, a Hubba ledge, and a flat bar listed in a town handout.
“We got very positive feedback,” Robinson said. “We had a lot of very active community members participating in the feedback, talking about different features they liked to see, how a skate park should flow.” The Tony Hawk Foundation’s skatepark-design ramp is another. Even though sharp separation between park features can help accommodate more skaters, the site says most skaters enjoy flow.
Robinson said Chapel Hill also received feedback from roller skaters and scooter riders who use the park. All of that “will have a great effect on the design”: The city’s designer attended the meeting “to talk to the community and find out what our community and residents are looking for.”
Robinson said Chapel Hill hopes to complete the design by late summer, put the bid documents out, and have the park under construction by spring or summer of 2025. Last year, the town decided to use some of the money it received under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for the park renovations.
Chapel Hill is asking for public feedback on plans to make the Chapel Hill Community Center playground more accessible for kids with disabilities. The town website says all nine Chapel Hill playgrounds offer some accessibility, “but most of these play structures have limited access for some children.”
Chapel Hill launched a feasibility study on improving accessibility in 2021, followed by public hearings to solicit feedback. The town has approved another $785,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for the playground project: $500,000 for inclusive playground equipment at the community center and $285,000 for accessibility upgrades at other parks.
An accessible playground complies with ADA standards, for example, by having clear, unobstructed pathways to reach all of the playground equipment. An inclusive playground goes above and beyond. For example, it might establish a quiet area where children on the autism spectrum can withdraw from the hubbub without feeling isolated.
The town has two upcoming public sessions where a playground equipment designer will listen to the community’s opinions and suggestions. One is Sunday, Feb. 11, noon–2 p.m. at the public library; the second is Thursday, Feb. 15, 6-8 p.m. at the community center. Anyone who wants to weigh in but can’t reach either meeting can take an online survey.
The feasibility study also looked at setting up a splash pad facility at one of Chapel Hill’s parks. A splash pad or interactive fountain area offers a chance to play in the water without any risk of drowning. The feasibility study said a mid-sized splash pad at Homestead Park would cost $900,000, not counting parking, restrooms, and a shade structure for the pad. The city has no funding reserved for the project yet.
Fraser Sherman has worked for newspapers, including the Destin Log, the Pensacola News-Journal and the Raleigh Public Record. Born in England, he’d still live in Florida if he hadn’t met the perfect woman and moved to Durham to marry her. He’s the author of several film reference books and has published one novel and several short story collections.