Discussions for Skate Park moving forward

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Anders Ike and Steve Suttles, both with the firm of JE Dunn, builders of the new hospital, addressed Town Council June 7 about assisting with the building of a skateboard park.

Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer

At last month’s Town of Franklin Council meeting, droves of skateboarders attended to express interest in a skate park where they can safely and legally enjoy the outdoor activity. Franklin Police Chief William “Bill” Harrell promised at the May 3 meeting to investigate opportunities within the town’s limits, and at the June 7 meeting he reported that he had been speaking with leadership at First United Methodist Church about its skateboarding ministry. 

However, two representatives from JE Dunn Construction, tasked with building the new hospital, were introduced to speak about their desire to organize a fundraising effort, secure suppliers, and manage volunteers to build a permanent skateboarding park. JE Dunn’s Superintendent Steve Suttles and Project Engineer Anders Ike explained that the company, JE Dunn, seeks to work within a community to leave a lasting impact via a beautification or improvement project. Suttles explained that he, Ike, and others at JE Dunn would like to make a skate park a reality before the hospital is completed in June 2022. 

“We’re doing this because we want the community to know that we are not just working here, but that we helped out in some way,” said Suttles.

Ike shared that he has reached out to the construction department at Western Carolina University as well as vocational entities at Franklin High School to determine if there is any interest in students learning about how such a community construction project comes to fruition. And, Suttles told the council that JE Dunn would provide some funds as well as seek supplier discounts and volunteerism, noting that a skating park could cost upwards of $100,000. 

While the Methodist church has what is considered a moveable skate park, in that it is not made of permanent concrete, JE Dunn proposes a permanent, concrete park. 

“I’m interested and excited about this project because I’m part of the younger generation,” said Ike, “and it would be great to see people outside and active, instead of sitting inside staring at a screen.” 

One site proposed for a skateboarding park is Jaycee/Franklin Memorial Park. “It’s accessible, it has parking, it’s in walking distance from the high school …,” said Town Manager Summer Woodard. “I suggest we take advantage of the momentum of this project.” 

Mayor Bob Scott told the representatives of JE Dunn that he “looked forward” to working with them on the details of the project. More discussions and plans about the skateboarding park will take place at the July meeting. 

Woodard, who has served as Franklin’s town manager since 2014 overseeing more than 60 employees, began her last meeting on the council by leading attendees in  the Pledge of Allegiance. She has accepted a position as town manager in Reidsville, N.C. Justin Setser, who currently serves as the Town Planner, will serve as interim town manager while the search continues for a permanent replacement for Woodard. 

Mayor Scott and the council commended Woodard and her staff on their work on the fiscal year 2021-22 budget, which was approved. “They did a magnificent job,” he said. 

Woodard also noted the town’s sponsored festivals and events, one of which is July 4th Celebration and Fireworks, which Mayor Scott said will be visible from all around the Town of Franklin. Other Town of Franklin sponsored events that have the support of Town Hall staff, the police department, and the fire department are: First Friday Night Outdoor Movies (which may start back soon), Pickin’ on the Square, Pumpkin Fest, Veterans Day, and two nights of Winter Wonderland. 

Other news was discussed and requests approved, including rules for Sunny Side Disc Golf: 1) Use of disc golf course is first come first serve; 2) Please pick up all trash and place in trash receptacles; 3) Use of disc golf course after dark is prohibited; 4) Pick up after pets; 5) Do not throw discs at vehicles; 6) Amplification equipment is prohibited; and, 7) No alcohol on premises. The Council also agreed to adopt an eighth rule prohibiting conceal-carry weapons on the premises, located on Siler Road. 

In addition, the Council approved the economic development loan for $200,000 on the Siler Road and Dowdle mountain road property where a Chick-Fil-A will be constructed. “It’s moving forward,” said Setser. “There is equipment on the site. I think they plan to be open possibly by early fall.”

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