Bushnell skate park open

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By Amanda Mims

If Bushnell residents have noticed less skateboarders on the sidewalks around town recently, there’s a good reason why: The new skate park at Kenny Dixon Sports Complex in Bushnell opened Sunday, Nov. 21.

Bushnell 18-year-old Tommy Whittaker said before it opened, he and others had to drive to Lake County if they wanted to use a skate park. “We come here like everyday now,” he said. “It’s smaller (than the park in Tavares) but it’s still fun.” The $100,000 park, a 60-by 100-foot concrete slab with ramps, rails, and benches, was purchased with a Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program grant. Participants are required to wear a helmet and turn a waiver in to City Hall in order to use the park. Anyone under the age of 18 must also written permission from a parent in the form of another waiver. Once the waivers are turned in, the city provides a sticker that must be displayed on skateboarder’s helmet. Owen Hatcher, 16, also of Bushnell, said he’s wanted a skate park nearby ever since he started skating six years ago. Before, the teens would typically get together in groups of two to eight and skate in the parking lots of banks and churches around town. City of Bushnell Vice Mayor Warren Maddox said in the past, business owners have about skaters using sidewalks and benches. Now, the business owners don’t have to worry about skaters, and the skaters have a place to go. “It’s been a long time coming,” said Bushnell Public Works employee Ruby Mark, who worked on the grant application.  “We’ve wanted (to build a skate park) for a long time.” In recent years, teens have gone as far as collecting signatures in support of building a skate park. Maddox said it was a change in state law several years ago that really made it feasible for the city to have a skate park. “The main thing that spearheaded this was the legislature, several years ago, passed a law that held … government entities harmless if they would build a skate park,” he said. “The money was available and we had the land, so we decided to do it,” he said. “We try to do what we can within our means.” Maddox said the city has authorized City Manager Vince Ruano to seek grant funding for a possible water spray park, also for Kenny Dixon Sports Complex. “That primarily would be geared to the younger kids,” he said. Whether the water park is constructed depends on grant funding and council approval.