New skate park adds to destinations around FAMU Way

Students from LeVerne Payne Community Center assisted with the ribbon cutting to mark the grand opening of the Skateable Art Park at Coal Chute Pond.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer  

A blazing late morning sun wasn’t enough to keep skaters from trying their tricks.

They came with the traditional skateboard, in-line skates and the old-school quads. Skaters were zipping around the lip of a hug sinkhole that resembles a bowl or over any of the nearby obstacle.

By the time officials from Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency, Leon and Tallahassee governments cut the ribbon to mark the opening of the Skateable Art Park and Coal Chute Pond Trail, huge beads of sweat had welled up on some skaters. An estimated 600 people turned out for the grand opening along FAMU Way, the latest addition to what is becoming a destination in addition to FAMU, Florida State University, Railroad Square Art Park, College Town and the St. Marks Trail.

“It feels extremely rewarding to have a completed project and have it so loved by the community already,” said Blueprint director Autumn Calder.

The ribbon cutting ceremony took place in front of a rattler replica, painted in FAMU orange and green colors with fangs sticking out of the head about 10 feet from the ground. The idea of having the FAMU mascot was dreamed up by designer Tim Payne, owners Team Payne Skate Parks. The head was built by Theme Works and painter Peter Koenig added the finishing touches that include a rattle on the tail and eyes done in metallic gold.

It all came to life after Payne got the idea, which he said he wasn’t sure would fly.

“It was a little risky proposing it because I knew we would have to jump through hoops getting permission from the college, but what better way to represent it than to have the rattler,” he said. “We just threw it out there.”

Even Koenig said he wasn’t sure how the concept of having a 25-foot replica of a snake would pan out.

“I wasn’t sure at first and I didn’t really think about it until I was out here and meeting people in the community,” said Koenig, who did some of the painting at nighttime. “It feels real good to see people enjoying it that much.”

Indeed, as it seemingly has become a huge part of the attractions that brings a cross-section of Tallahassee together.

“The Cascades Trail-FAMU Way area is extremely unique because it knits together the fabric of our community, starting with the south, up to the arts and culture at Railroad Square and the FSU community connected to the FAMU students,” said Caldler. “Every little square inch along Cascades Trail is very special and is such an opportunity to create public spaces that facilitate the connections. We take that so seriously.”

The idea for the skate park along FAMU Way first surfaced in n 2014 when skaters were doing tricks on the Korean War Memorial in Cascades Park, Calder said. The skate park has since become part of a bigger plan that includes a history and culture trail. Construction for that phase will begin later this year.

The $2.8 million project is the second skate park in the city and it’s believed to be one of the largest in Florida. Mike Blankenship Skate Park off Jackson Bluff Road was built about 21 years ago.

Stephen Mathers was one of the skaters who tested the park early. He had become weary of Blankenship and the new park gave him a reason to return to skating after an 18-month hiatus.

“I came out here and got to skate new obstacles; nice, fresh and smooth,” he said. “It’s awesome. “It’s worth every penny. It keeps us out of the streets.”

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