Last year, the city of Dunlap was considering several possibilities for local recreational developments. They posted a survey online and encouraged everyone to participate, to tell what mattered to them. When all was said and done, the top two choices were a downtown farmer’s market and a splash pad for children. Number three was a skate park.
Public hearings followed, to glean input from people concerned enough to come. And based on the combined findings of the survey and the hearings, city leadership submitted applications for a Local Parks and Recreation Fund (LPRF) grant, through the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).
Present at those public hearings was a young man – 19 years old – who spoke eloquently on behalf of the skate park. Gavin Gardner did not look like a serious advocate for anything, with his spiked blue hair and pierced ear, but he was. He talked about what got him into skateboarding as a child, and what got him back into it only a year before. He talked about the burgeoning skateboard community in Dunlap, numbering about 20 or 30, and how they offered to help younger kids progress in the sport whenever they saw them out with a skateboard.
He said more kids would take up the sport, if they had a place to practice. And this was the perfect opportunity – the city was applying for grants, the county had entered into partnership on it by donating an acre lot across State Street from Harris Park, and there was obvious support for the idea on the city’s survey.
The hearings ended. Applications were submitted. The proposals for the farmer’s market and the splash pad found funding, but the skate park did not. So it was put on the back burner for the time being.
Then tragedy struck. Early Saturday morning, Oct. 22, 2016, a house fire claimed the lives of Gavin Gardner and his roommate Logan Thornton.
But the dream of a skate park for Dunlap did not die with Gavin. At 6 p.m. this Saturday, March 18, friends and family have organized a benefit concert at the city stage in Harris Park, as a fundraiser for the skate park. The city may have the project on the back burner, but supporters are pushing ahead, trying to stir up a grass roots effort to raise money for the park.
Maybe it will work. It has a chance, if everyone who reads this turns out to support the effort. And if the city joins forces with the skateboarders and friends of Gavin – maybe using the grass roots movement as evidence to the state that this project has community support.
It would be good to see all this energy succeed, so that some day kids can practice their sport in a real, genuine skate park all their own, instead of a bank parking lot.
Maybe even honor and remember the one who started it "rolling," you might say. The Gavin Gardner Memorial Skate Park.
Yeah. That has a nice ring to it.