My Thoughts

by Pat Bradford
Thursday, September 6, 2007

A living civics lesson is underway at Wrightsville Beach, and one the entire town should be proud of.

Seventh-grader Fisher Hardee, son of Jim and Beverly Hardee, has grown up on South Harbor Island. The setting could hardly have been more idyllic.

Like many of the kids in this neighborhood, Fisher grew up riding bikes, swimming, surfing and skating. He’s a good kid who also plays ice hockey.

But this 12-year-old is intent right now on taking on the town government in a concentrated effort to see a public skateboard facility built within the town. Fisher skates at the end of his driveway, and up and down the town’s streets, as many kids on the two islands do. Sometimes he goes over to a neighbor’s, who has a pretty nifty halfpipe set up in the lot next door to his home.

He occasionally talks his parents, both of whom work full-time, into taking him to skate at the new municipal park in Carolina Beach.

Fisher presented his request for a facility to the board of aldermen at its last meeting, arguing that if the town does not have a skate park, it becomes a skate park.

With the support of a growing number of adults, including Carolina Beach Mayor Bill Clark and area businessmen like Chuck Bourgeois, Mike Barden, Tony Butler, Ace Coffer and Reggie Barnes, Fisher has racked up an impressive number of signatures on petitions — more than 1,100 signatures and counting.

Sure, on these petitions, many of the signatures are from people who live off the beach, and a stunning number, 80 percent on one petition, are from people who are not registered to vote, which indicates they are under voting age. Imagine that, children petitioning government with their grievances.

It’s staggering.

The curmudgeon element is perhaps intimidated by this, but town leaders should be applauding the kid, not pooh-poohing his efforts.

Fisher has received a cool response from the town so far, but undaunted, he next goes to the parks and recreation committee to plead his case. He needs their support.

The naysayers list in defense of their noticeably out-of-date thinking: lack of funds to build such a park, the liability for injury, and last but not least, no place for a park to be located.

Excuse me, folks, but we have enough land to situate a skate park. We have ball fields, we have tennis courts, we have basketball courts, and a rec center for Pilates and crafts — what do we have for 12-year-olds?

When speaking to the town, Fisher suggested the town use the county bond money, which unfortunately is pitifully small and already earmarked. So, there’s no funding available in the fiscal year 07-08 budget. But what about the following year’s budget?

The liability issue seems to be answered — do whatever the leaders of Carolina Beach did. It works for them; it can work here. Seems simple enough.

Fisher’s not been put off by the issue of funding, either. He’s been busy — he’s talked to the contractor who built the park at Carolina Beach, Ben Hooks, who has a house here and is interested in seeing a park built here, too. He’s talked to a concrete company in Charlotte and may have lined up a donation for the concrete; he’s talked to electrical contractors who are willing to donate electrical supplies and labor to get the project lighted. He’s even e-mailed corporate America asking food giant Harris Teeter to ante

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