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Skateboarders park planned for Strasburg

Trent Williams, 8, is shown during a past Relay for Life event held at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily file (Buy photo)

Police chief, child's family begin fundraising effort for 'Tribute to Trent' park

By Alex Bridges

Strasburg's growing skateboarding community could get a place to ride in memory of Trent Williams.

Strasburg police Chief Tim Sutherly and the Williams' family recently began an effort to raise money to build a skateboarders park that would honor the 8-year-old boy who died of cancer on July 29, 2012.

Sutherly and the boy's mother, Jennifer Williams, presented their idea to Town Council on Tuesday. Sutherly said Wednesday that the majority of council appeared supportive of the idea.

Mayor Tim Taylor voiced his support Wednesday and noted that over the years skateboarders have asked him how the town could build a park. Such a project takes an organized effort by supporters, Taylor said. The mayor added that he could see a project like this in honor of Trent taking off thanks to the support of the police chief.

"I think it's a good thing," Taylor said. "I think it's definitely a need when it comes to our youth because there's a lot of kids you'll see around skateboarding, so it will be nice to have a place they can go and use a skate park in a way that's not bothering anybody."

Williams recalled Wednesday that one day Sutherly told her that he felt like Trent "was trying to communicate with me" and "I don't know what it is but I really feel like I should be doing something with his name." The possibilities went beyond fundraising and supporting the foundation in Trent's name.

Sutherly told her that an idea for a skate park seemed to fit. Sutherly came up with the name "Tribute to Trent Skate Park," she said.

Trent didn't skateboard, though he did ride a scooter, Williams said. But Trent and Logan's older brother, Caden, who turns 13 this month, recently started skateboarding.

"He is super-stoked," Williams said of Caden's interest in the skate park idea. "Actually, all of his friends and buddies know about it."

Williams said Caden's friends have already started volunteering to raise money for the park.

While still in the early stages, Williams noted that the skate park already appears to have support.

Now the organizers face an ambitious goal of raising the money and building the project by April 29 -- Trent and his twin brother, Logan's, birthday. Supporters already formed a committee to work on the project. The committee includes an engineer who has volunteered his expertise to help find a site and design the park, Sutherly said. The design also depends on the land the group can acquire, Sutherly added.

The group is looking at building a park of 8,000-10,000 square feet. Sutherly has already checked out the skate park in Front Royal that spans 15,000 square feet. He said he expects the group will look at other examples as they get closer to designing the park.

But the group also plans to let skateboarders in Strasburg help design the park, Sutherly said. Likewise, the skateboarders will become involved in raising money for the park.

"We want them invested in it by participating in it and earning the money for it and, hopefully, they'll be more apt to take care of it as well," Sutherly said.

Jennifer Williams will take the reins in leading the fundraising efforts, from organizing bake sales and car washes to finding corporate sponsors and companies that may provide in-kind services, Sutherly added.

Sutherly said the town may need to pay for some of the project but the group hopes to reduce those costs through the fundraising.

The group needs to find land for the skatepark and then have the project built. As Sutherly explained, the town eventually would take over the skate park and the property. As a result, the town would maintain the park and the facility would come under Strasburg's insurance, Sutherly explained. Skateboarders would need to wear protective gear to use the park, he added.

The community showed support for Trent and his family during the boy's battle against cancer. Sutherly said that ongoing support should help the fundraising effort.

"Just knowing that his name will be attached to it will definitely help there and the need is there in the community," Sutherly said. "There's a lot of kids that skateboard and of course as police officers were constantly the bad guy running them off the sidewalks and everywhere they shouldn't be.

"So hopefully this will give us an alternative place for them to go," Sutherly added.

The police chief said he guesses that more than 50 percent of the children in town ride skateboards or bicycles.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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