Rotary Centennial Riverfront Skatepark Celebrates Grand Opening

The grand opening of the Rotary Centennial Riverfront Skatepark April 14 celebrated not only the formal opening of the skate park to the city of Lynchburg, but also the journey it took to get there.

In August 2017, Lynchburg resident Lauren Dianich began to encourage her son and his skateboarder friends to contact the Lynchburg City Council and push for a reopening of the skate park, rather than just complaining about the limited hours. After several months of raising awareness, writing letters to city council members and building connections within the skateboarding community, the City of Lynchburg Department of Parks and Recreation agreed to reopen the skate park.

“(The skateboarding community) saw that they could make a difference, and they could speak their minds by taking a good approach to (the situation),” Dianich said. “People often feel like they don’t have a say or things are out of their control — this (skate park) is something in their hometown that is in their control.”

Dianich — who is now the co-organizer of the Lynchburg skateboard advocacy group, Save Our Skatepark LYH — said that for years, skateboarders in Lynchburg have been frustrated by the skate park’s few and inconsistent hours.

“It’s a beautiful park; it’s a wonderful park, but any business that is only open 12 hours a week is going to fail — that’s just a given,” Dianich said.

According to Dianich, many skateboarders — young and old — came out of the woodwork and began to help with the petitioning process as awareness for the cause grew.

“It was very heartening to meet the (skateboarders) and find they have this community,” Dianich said. “It’s a strong community, but their voice was being ignored.”

Dianich said Liberty Mountain Skate Park was a significant help in the efforts to reopen the Rotary Centennial Riverfront Skatepark, generously providing practical data and information as the advocacy group petitioned for the reopening of the park.

“(The Liberty Mountain Skate Park) could have said, ‘Well, we don’t want you opening it because that’ll take away from (our skate park),” Dianich said. “They didn’t do that — they were very nice about sharing information and being supportive. They know that skateboarding is a community, and people can’t go to the same place all the time.”

The good attitudes and kind interactions of skateboarders at the Liberty Mountain Skate Park has also positively influenced the skateboarding community in Lynchburg, Dianich said.

“Some people might think that (skateboarders) are territorial or not friendly, but because of how Liberty runs its indoor skate park, there’s a good understanding of how to treat one another, and people treat each other well,” Dianich said. “Generally, skateboarders do (treat each other well), but (Liberty Mountain Skate Park) set the tone.”

Since the soft opening of the Rotary Centennial Riverfront Skatepark in February, Dianich said that the park has been regularly occupied by skateboarders, some traveling from up to an hour away.

“The main goal has been to get the park open, but there have been a lot of nice side benefits — meeting new neighbors and meeting people with similar interests,” Dianich said.

Dianich said that skateboarding is an excellent sport for any kid to become involved with because it is so affordable, and having a local skate park means that little commitment is required from the parents. Because a variety of age groups participate in the sport and because there are no formal coaches, relationships and community are quickly built.

“For a lot of kids — no matter their family situation — when you’re in those teenage years, you really need to be able to talk to other people and see different perspectives besides just your parents,” Dianich said. “The skate park is a very informal place where that happens, but it happens.”

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