By WILLIAM PAINE
For The Patriot
As of this week, the Town of Pulaski has a new place for the citizenry to recreate, as a brand-new skate park and basketball court were officially opened to the public. The new park is situated between 1st Street NE and Peak Creek and is adjacent to the old iron walking bridge that crosses the creek.
The weather was fair last Friday, as town representatives and other V.I.P.’s from the community gathered to mark the opening of the recently completed skate park / basketball court.
The skate park contains several ramps, banks and rails, which suits the skateboarding set just fine. The basketball court is also nicely laid out and is surrounded by a tall chain link fence, likely as a way to keep the basketballs from rolling into the skate park.
Pulaski Mayor Shannon Collins began the proceedings by speaking about the history of this piece of property, noting that it was first home to the General Chemical Company, which opened back in the late 1800’s and remained in business until the 1950’s.
The 50’s and 60’s saw the emergence of Aust Furniture, a salvage company, a used car lot and Aust Construction. The Town acquired the land in 2015 and used a federal Brown Fields grant to clean various contaminants that were present, largely due to the chemical company’s presence there.
“They took the soil out and replaced it with clean backfill,” said Collins of the project. “They put in concrete pads to prevent human contact with any remaining contaminants. Overall cleanup cost was $400,000.”
Funds from the American Recovery Act were used to design and then build the skateboard park / basketball court.
Pulaski Town Council member Jamie Radcliffe then explained that the new park will soon be given an official name, but that both the skateboard and basketball facilities within the park will be dedicated to two different individuals.
According to Radcliffe, every two or three years, the skateboard and basketball facilities will be renamed to honor other worthy individuals within the community. All of those who will have been honored with this dedication will be listed in a permanent marker somewhere in the park.
Referring to the naming of the skate park, Radcliffe said this.
“I picked this particular individual because he was a skateboarder all the way through. I worked for many years with his dad at Pulaski Recreation … So, I wanted to name this park after his son Matt Akers, who is no longer with us.”
Matt Akers coached football and wrestling at Pulaski Middle School and his younger brother, Cam Akers, is now the head coach for the Pulaski County High School football team.
“Both of my sons got into coaching,” said Dirk Akers. “I must have done something right. I hope I did. We worked with the guys in Missouri putting this skate park together.”
“I think it’s awesome,” said Cam Akers who was also present at the dedication. “They did a heck of a job with it.”
For the dedication of the basketball court, Radcliffe described a person who, “is a great friend of mine and who spent his whole life working for the county or the town.”
After remarking that the entire town council unanimously voted for both individuals, Radcliffe announced that the basketball court would be dedicated to fellow council member Lane Penn.
When asked how having a basketball court named after him felt, Penn said, “I feel pretty good. I’ve lived here all of my life and it’s nice to be honored while you’re still alive.”
Did Penn have an association with the sport of basketball?
“I did play basketball,” Penn responded. “I went to the Christiansburg Institute back in segregation and I ended up playing ball in Europe … playing with the Germans for four years. I came back on a scholarship and played at Bluefield State College. At the time, I thought I was good enough to play pro ball and so I went to New York to try out for the New York Knickerbockers … but unfortunately, I wasn’t good enough. So that was the end of my basketball career,” Penn said with a chuckle.
Following Radcliff’s remarks, a ribbon cutting ceremony took place. As if on cue, several skateboarders started rolling in and doing what they do best … ollies, nollies, aerials, grinders, kick turns and whatever else the cool kids call it.
Jacob Hodge owns the NRV Board Shop, which is located just across the creek from the new facility on East Main Street in Pulaski. In previous years, Hodge and other skateboarders were often found at the old, dilapidated skateboard facility at McGill Park.
What does he think about this new facility?
“It feels amazing,” Hodge enthused. “It’s a great opportunity to cater not just to the youth but for people of all ages.”
By that time, more than a dozen skateboarders had descended on the new facility, all of whom Hodge knew well.
“This is family,” said Hodge as he motioned to the skateboarders. “These have been my best friends since I started skateboarding … because you can always find a friend when you got a skateboard.”
“I like it,” said a 26-year-old skater by the name of Zach Corman. “It’s a lot better than what we had. I can see spending a lot of time down here.”