Seconds after Mayor Santiago “Jimbo” Martinez snipped a red and white ribbon, skateboards were soaring in all directions as about 50 youngsters, and a couple of crazy adults, started showing off their skills, or lack of them.
Martinez and Councilmen David Carabajal and John Fulghum were dodging skaters as they surveyed their pet project with smiles.
Improvements to the city’s most visible park property have been underway for months as construction workers with Amstar, Inc. General Contractors took on the task.
“Flournoy Park has deep roots in our community,” Martinez said just before cutting the ribbon. “And rehabilitating it for the community to enjoy will hopefully bring the community together to come out and walk, spend time with their children and, of course, skate.”
“We owed it to the community to make this park a central place to gather and I believe we have,” Martinez said.
“It will take time for the grass to grow out, flowers to bloom, but with tender loving care it will happen.”
Flournoy Park is located just north of downtown between North St. Mary’s and North Washington streets, the two, busiest north-south thoroughfares in the city.
But the park has never been developed to its potential, city officials believe.
Former City Manager Ford Patton had a plan to improve the property to make it more attractive but the Beeville Economic Improvement Corporation board of directors decided it wanted a more comprehensive project with improvements to all the city’s recreational areas.
The city brought in Raymond Gignac of Gignac and Associates, a Corpus Christi firm, to work up a master plan. Right from the start, Flournoy was recommended for a skate park because of its high visibility and central location.
With the help of the BEIC board, which is paying off more than $3 million in bonds sold to finance the improvements, Flournoy was approved for the massive face lift.
One of the first decisions made by the City Council was to set aside $200,000 of the bond sale proceeds for the construction of the skate park.
Former Mayor Pro Tem John Longoria, who was at Flournoy Park for the ribbon cutting Wednesday, had told the City Council numerous times that he and some friends had asked for a skate park back in the 1970s.
Martinez reminded the young skaters waiting for the ribbon to be cut that they had been wanting a skate park for 33 years.
“Well, here it is,” Martinez said, “your skate park to enjoy. Be careful, wear helmets, be safe, take care of it, keep it clean. It will be here for many years to enjoy.”
It was the skaters themselves who had much of the input in the design of the facility. After the council hired the Austin-based firm, SPA Skateparks, to design and build the $200,000 structure, representatives from the company held public hearings to find out what local skaters wanted.
The result was the large, B-shaped structure at Flournoy. The concept was overwhelmingly approved by the skaters who attended the meeting and surveyed the artist’s rendition of the final look.
SPA designers also chose to build the skate park on the south side of the property where it would better fit in with a new public restroom facility, walking trail, picnic facilities, a playscape for children and a butterfly garden that will be built by Beeville Garden Club members.
“I think it’s a very positive thing for the kids and the community,” Longoria said. “It should bring everybody together.”
Longoria seems to be right about the impact the park will have on the community. The grounds were busy all day Wednesday, especially at the skate park.
City Manager Deborah Ballí said the city needs to get some rules posted at the park soon and the Martinez encouraged all skaters to wear helmets.
To set an example, Martinez wore a helmet as he made the first official run on the skate park pavement.
During his remarks before cutting the ribbon, Martinez told the skaters and others that they should come back to Flournoy on Aug. 11 between 10 a.m. and noon. The city is planning a “grand event” for that day that is expected to feature giveaways and skating demonstrations.
More details are expected to be announced next week.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.