ATLANTA – Skaters returned to the skate park under Interstate 85, just yards from the collapse, and they weren't exactly happy about the possibility of Georgia Department of Transportation demolishing it--but they want to work together to preserve it.
Nearly three dozen skaters were drawn to the park without a permit on Friday, ranging in age from teenaged to mid-50s, hoping that GDOT will compromise as they begin the permit process.
Patrick, a devoted skater who spoke on behalf of the group and didn’t want to give his last name, said it’s taken years to construct the park and they want to work with GDOT to keep it.
“We’re gonna work and cooperate and save this space because we’ve been here for almost a decade, cleaning it up and using it in a positive way,” he said.
“The DOT has done a good job and we want to work with them to create a space of use that a positive influence on this area, the kids and Atlanta as a whole.”
Patrick said they plan to live the “bridge life,” by fighting the good fight. There was even a petition started to save the skate park.
For now, however, the park is closed indefinitely. And GDOT asked them to leave the premises.
According to GDOT, the department was informed about the skate park about a month ago, but they did not know the location until 11Alive’s report pointed them to it Thursday.
Mayor Kasim Reed held a press conference Friday to address the I-85 collapse and the progress to rebuild it, among other topics, including the nearby skate park.
While he said he does not condone how and where the skate park was built, he did call it “creative.”
“I certainly don’t condone it and not for it. But I won’t feign being shocked," Reed said. "Those kinds of things will occur because people are creative and they will use certain parts of the city creatively."
"Regarding the Georgia DOT, I think they’ve already decided they’re going to do the assessment of how they manage the use of all of the facilities of under the bridges they have of all the responsibilities before. I won’t pile on. I think the most important thing we can do right now is to work in a cooperative fashion and that’s what’s going on."
The skate park was created under the I-85 bridge, just beyond where it collapsed last week in a massive fire during rush hour. But GDOT never approved it.
The park was not sanctioned or approved by state officials in any way, GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale said Thursday in a text message to 11Alive.
After 11Alive published its story, the GDOT sent this statement:
“There was no permit of any kind given for this unauthorized facility on state property. We are aware of its existence and will begin removal shortly. Our team is currently working to review this site as part of our commitment to address illegal trespassing on state property and the resulting implications.”
Andrew Rodriguez, a regular skateboarder, said he discovered just a day after the collapse.
"It's pretty solid," Rodriguez said after giving the ramps a try. He told 11Alive it's one of the nicest skate parks he's ever been on and is like a piece of art.
"It definitely looks like it’s done by people who know what they’re doing," he concluded.
The state has put up temporary barricades down the road to prevent people from driving up to the park.
A G-DOT spokesperson said that a meeting between the agency and the skateboarding community is set for Thursday on how to move forward.
The permitting process for a project like this, could be long and typically starts before construction.