St. Joe teenager gathers over 500 signatures on skate park petition

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A petition started by a local teenager a week ago asking for a skate park to be built in Port St. Joe has already received more than 560 signatures.

At the city’s Tuesday city commission meeting, Ayden Sapp, a 17 year-old junior at Port St. Joe High School, brought his petition to the board, asking them to consider the suggestion and presenting his research on the subject.

“I am speaking for the youth of this community as well as over 500 locals who have signed this petition,” he said before the board.  “There are many benefits to building a local skate park in our community, such as giving individuals who have the common interests of skateboarding, scootering, roller skating and BMX a safe place to practice their skills.”

“Also, it will provide physical and health benefits for the youth, instead of increasing cell phone and other device usage. A skate park gives kids the opportunity to go outside and try something new.”

The petition, which was launched on online petition platform Change.org, quickly picked up steam in local social media groups.

Sapp’s initial goal of 500 signatures has now been raised to 1,000 signatures on the website.

Commissioners, who vocalized support for the idea, initially recommended that Sapp present his idea at the city’s upcoming joint workshop with Gulf County over the potential construction of a new sports complex, dubbed the Field of Dreams.

“Would you be opposed to a skate park being part of a sports complex at the Field of Dreams?” asked Commissioner Scott Hoffman. “We're trying to reach an agreement with the county to fund the entire new sports complex. And I think in my mind, I'm thinking why couldn't it be part of that.”

But during about 15 minutes of discussion that followed, the issue of the timeline for the project was raised, with construction of the Field of Dreams unlikely to be complete any time in the next five to six years.

Sapp proposed that an ideal timeline for the project would be one to two years.

“I want to see it before I go to the Navy,” he said.

Several members of the community stood to voice their support of Sapp’s skate park idea and to encourage commissioners to consider an alternate location with a quicker timeline.

Commissioner Eric Langston also encouraged his fellow commissioners to consider a quicker timeline.

“We need something for these kids to go out and enjoy themselves and communicate with each other, talk to each other, not text,” said Langston.  “I think it’s important for us to try to go ahead and try to move forward with this as soon as possible.”

Sapp named several other possible locations during his presentation to the commissioner — including the open field across from the 16th Street Park and an open area near the Stac House. 

The teenager also mentioned that he had already reached out to several organizations that he hoped might be able to help with funding for the project, which he said would likely cost around $30 or $40 per square foot.

Locals have also been donating to the project, Sapp said.

Commissioners agreed to continue discussing a skate park going forward.

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