2017-02-01 / Features

A skatepark worthy of its name

By Kristin N. Compton

Shell, 28, of Pensacola has had an (almost) lifelong love of skating. While it took him a full decade to find his passion early on in life, which he then fell away from in high school before falling back into it in college, Shell says skating is something that always just came naturally to him. “I started skating when I was around 10 years old,” Shell said. “I had been involved in other competitive sports, but when I started skating I just knew I had ‘found my thing.’”

Shell said growing up in Pensacola he spent a lot of time hanging out at Deep South Skatepark prior to its closing approximately 15 years ago, about the time when Shell was in eighth grade. Not wanting to throw in the towel on what he was most passionate about, Shell and his friends attempted to scout out places to continue skating around town. “The police and the pub lic were not really big fans of that,” Shell recalled, explaining that with no other alternative, he finally gave in and gave up his sport in high school. “I didn’t skate for a long time,” he said.

Shell left the area to attend college at the University of Central Florida in Orlando and it was there that he rekindled his passion and g ot back on the board as a result of the extensive availability of free pub lic skate parks in the central Florida region. “That was the one big thing I could see us improve upon as a city,” Shell said, realizing that his hometown needed to be revitalized for its youth. “The city was lacking in safe and positive places for kids (as well as adults) to practice the sport.”

It was along Shell’s quest to cultivate such a place upon his return to Pensacola, that his friend’s brother, Blake Doyle, whom he was quite close to, was struck and killed by a train. “He was just an incredibly charismatic guy,” Shell said, searching for the right words to describe him . “He skated on a prosthetic leg. He didn’t let that hold him back.”

Blake’s brother, Bart Doyle, told Shell he wanted to get in on the efforts to create a skatepark, and they both decided it should be done in Blake’s memory, hence the birth of the name for the project, The Blake Doyle Community Park.

But Shell and Doyle quickly found that the cost of a project su ch as theirs would be significant. “I realized we would either have to work with a nonprofit or start our own mission in order to raise the funds.” And th at was the starting point for Upward Intuition in the spring of 2015, honing the purpose of facilitating positive change in Pensacola. Shell say s, “The three-word phrase that we center our work upon is simple: Thoughts Create Reality.’”

Most importantly, Shell and Doyle wanted the youth to have the opportunity to get involved. Shell said the first blog post published on the non-profit’s site is titled “Pensacola’s Forgotten Youth.” “We wanted them to be part of [the project],” Shell said. “We wanted [Upward Intuition] to be the bridge for the youth in our town.” Shell said that while most children and teens feel like they don’t have a voice and certainly not as if they can make any sort of impact with their local politicians, he rather wanted the youth to know that they can make a difference. Shell said a skate team was formed, and while, yes, they are really good skaters and they enjoy the sport of skating, they also act as ambassadors for the project.

The city council agreed that the project was right in line with their initial vision for their Urban Greenway Plan, and they believed The Blake Doyle Community Park would set the precedent and be a fitting catalyst for their future redevelopment efforts. While Shell was initially disappointed with the city’s proposed placement of the park under I-110, he said he later became really excited about it, seeing it as a “gateway” into Downtown Pensacola.

Shell said it was a huge win for him and Doyle securing the approval from the various necessary authorities including the Pensacola Mayor, city council, Department of Transportation, Parks and Recreation. “The city agreed to operate and maintain the park; they budgeted up to $50,000 a year for trash pick-up, landscaping, graffiti clean-up and anything else it might need to stay up and running,” Shell said. “We will still manage the programming and camps, and we plan to have professional contests there as well.” He added, “The Mayor and the city have been great to work with.”

Shell says they are about 80 percent done with Phase I of the project which covers the preliminary cost of development at $125,000. A design firm from Los Angeles, which Shell said does a lot of the design for the X-games’ parks, will be in charge of the design for The Blake Doyle Community Park. Shell said that gifts from family foundations, Commissioner Doug Underhill with a contribution of $10,000, city council donations from discretionary funds, other private donors and fundraisers have accounted for the 80 percent procurement of the necessary Phase I funds.

The kickoff of Phase II will take place at the downtown Pensacola YMCA on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. with three sessions for the community to come out and voice their opinions on activities and amenities they would like to see included in the park. “We really want to get their input,” Shell said. “They’re going to be the ones using it everyday.” He added, “We would like to be able to announce that Phase I is complete at that time.”

Phase II will also include the brick and mortar part of the project which, based on figures of similar projects, could cost in the range of $1.5 million .

As far as an overall completion date, Shell said it’s somewhat up in the air at the moment. “We don’t have a strict timeline,” he said. “But I would like to start on construction in 2018.”

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