While signs and sentiments of No Pipeline are familiar in Nelson County, many are grateful to say “Yes, halfpipe” in appreciation of a nearly six-foot-tall, cross halfpipe that serves as Nelson County’s only skatepark. Since September 2009, the Rockfish Valley Community Center (RVCC) in Afton has been the home to this special place, often referred to locally as “SK8 Nelson.” It remains available to the public at no charge.
The park was built by local volunteers and avid skaters with a fundraising effort after RVCC gave the green light in 2008 to allow the site a home. The park’s originator, Tim Gorman, father of two skaters, Sam and Max, had been bringing his sons to Charlottesville’s McIntire skate park and wanted a local option.
“Nelson County Parks and Recreation was not interested, so I approached the RVCC Board of Directors,” said Gorman. “We spent about a year fund raising.” Seed money from the roller derby team “Derby Dames” started the funding. Concerts at Cardinal Point Winery, T-shirt sales and a generous donation from the dissolving Nelson County Summer Festival got the material list together. Blue Ridge Builders Supply in Crozet contributed materials for the plywood frame. The “Skate-lite” bowl surface, made from a polymer sheet to withstand weather, was ordered from Idaho.
Michael Donegan was there for the installation. “I have been skating since I was 12 years old,” he said. He now continues the ongoing maintenance and repairs. “Since the early ’70s, skateboarding has grown-up with a new wave of skaters on urethane wheels that are resilient to rocks and (pavement) cracks. Boards are changing, too, in shapes of fiberglass material. A hybrid thin plywood material is lighter and more durable. Last year, a big change was made to the configuration of the original cross-pipe design: The two smaller ramps were detached and rebuilt into a parallel side-by-side design to be safer and more versatile.
Donegan is also a father of two: Niall, a graduate of Gilford College, and Ian, a current student at Virginia Commonwealth University, who both grew up around the skatepark. Their contribution has included artwork on the ramp sides that show a creative style to enhance the view.
Closer to home, SK8 Crozet has created a trail system within Crozet Park for all community members to travel, though that was made for longboard use. Longboards are not intended for performing tricks but rather as a means of travel. Longboards are popular on college campuses as a way to roll across campus. Some longboard tricks such as a ghost-ride, stepping off and back on, can be learned in addition to variations of a 180-degree turn.
Sara Taylor joined the RVCC as operations manager in 2012. Both Taylor and Stuart Mills, RVCC’s executive director, serve in their staff roles on the SK8 Committee. Together with board member Gifford Childs and several volunteer members, including Donegan, Mike Bailey of Action for All, Duane Brown, John Gulino, and Cody Marsh, the committee provides oversight and maintenance of the restricted-asset funding account.
The first annual “Save SK8 Nelson” festival was in June 2015. SK8 Nelson generates support of the park through this annual outdoor event and through solicitation of donations and sponsorships. One of the highlights of the event continues to be the Best Trick competition where skaters demonstrate their dazzling moves. The Skate Jam includes live music by various popular local bands, including Shag Wuf, The Blndrs, and Orme Storm, offered in memory of Danial Rasnake, aka “Min-Pin,” a beloved local skater and friend.
The recent Fourth Annual SK8 Nelson Festival in July was the largest turnout of supporters yet, including skaters and community fans. The event provided a revenue record that covers the maintenance and insurance costs for another year.
Mike Bailey, of Morrissey Photography has provided numerous professional photos taken at festival events, along with Duane Brown, that can be viewed on both Facebook and Instagram posted on SK8 Nelson and Action for All.
To learn more about the park and direct tax-deductible contributions for the benefit and support of the skate park, visit www.rockfishcc.org/support- sk8-nelson.