“Skate on” was the theme today as the city of Laurel’s Parks and Recreation Department had a ribbon-cutting ceremony led by Mayor Johnny Magee to unveil the Daphne Skate Park officially. 

“Until 2005 at this very spot, this was home to a skate park made of wood. It, like many other things, was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina,” said Magee, “After Katrina, the spot where the wooden skate park became a parking lot again. Thereby having no dedicated space for skaters.” 

“On April 8th, Daphne Park celebrated its 90th birthday. I couldn’t think of a better present to mark this milestone than a facelift of Daphne Park. A project like this doesn’t happen overnight. The vision of our Parks and Recreation Director, Elvin Ulmer, looked to rebuild the old skate park. With the encouragement of the Economic Vitality Committee of Laurel Main Street, and Neel-Schaffer Engineering’s Vice President Mandy Hegwood at the helm, they navigated the waters to find a capable contractor to keep the project within the allotted budget.” 

Magee also recognized two important partners who were the two principal funding partners of the project, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks along with the Tony Hawk Foundation who gave grants to make the Daphne Skate Park go from dream to reality.

“The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks provided a generous recreational trail grant of $125,000 to further their goal of promoting outdoor recreation, ecotourism, and to continue their network of a trail by providing a sense of place for skateboarders. We want to thank Mrs. Whitney Pickering for the writing and overseeing of this grant. The agency headed by Dr. Sam Polles [Executive director of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks] continues to help the city of Laurel. The Tony Hawk Foundation gave $5,000 towards the city’s match to the grant. Most importantly, their director, Alec Beck, guided us through the process of design and research of the longer-lasting state of the art materials and contractual oversight that proved to be valuable.” 

The city of Laurel leadership also gathered over 30 local skaters to help assist in the design of the skate park while maintaining the allotted budget around four years ago. 

“In the winter of 2016, we had 35 skaters come together in a room at the Cameron Center to help design this park.  This design came from that initial meeting and other meetings with the skaters.  We thank them for their assistance and I hope today that they are pleased. Daphne Skate Park will be instrumental in restoring an area of the park that had become underutilized. Now more than ever, we hope that it will bring neighbors together for the next 90 years,” said Magee. 

Ulmer, who has worked tirelessly to make the skate park a reality, sees this day as a great day for the community.

“This is such a great day and achievement for the city. It is a project that when I came to work for the city in 2001, it was my first project that I had in my head to try and get done. When I came here, the skaters were skating downtown in front of merchant buildings, around Pinehurst, and the benches. It was doing more damage than anything. There was only the old, plywood skateboard park out here that was a liability issue. We started talking about this in 2001. It has taken us a while to get to this point. Mrs. Whitney Pickering did a great job of finding the grant work for us. She found funding through the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks along with the Tony Hawk Foundation. It is all a reality now. I’m thankful to see people enjoy it,” explained Ulmer. 

Ulmer also said that they hope to extend the skate park with a more “street-style” build in the future.

“We want to keep building onto the park and keep revitalizing Daphne Park for our community.”

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