Skater’s Paradise

Photo by Leslie Feinberg.

In Appalachia, there are so many collapsing old structures, like the coal mining towns from the last post, that are being reclaimed by forests and lost to time. You could spend a lifetime exploring them, but if you did, you’d miss the fun of deserted places that didn’t stay deserted for long.

A great example is outside Asheville. In this case, it’s multiple deserted places that aren’t old at all. They are ultra-posh neighborhoods, and, until a few years ago, they were being carved out of North Carolina mountainsides at an alarming rate. To make room for people with appetites for three car garages and four treeless acres all their own, developers were leveling the scenic beauty that brought people to region in the first place.

I’ll spare you my diatribe about this self-destructive cycle. What’s notable is that these developments came to a screeching halt when the economy faltered. The backhoes and double drum rollers pulled out, leaving behind empty lots and, more importantly, long, fresh-paved streets that navigate hillside terrain with twists and turns.

Philip Aschilman says, “It’s easy to find these places.” He hosts a Facebook group for skateboarders who have turned these deserted sites into their own private skate parks.

“I just go onto Google Earth and start searching around,” he recently told Blue Ridge Outdoors, “Look for that telltale brown spot where all the trees have been freshly cut down around a neighborhood road.”

Once Philip pinpoints a spot, he doesn’t visit it alone. Conk your head against a sidewalk in one of these deserted neighborhoods, and the vultures might find you before anyone else. He takes a friend and also a push broom, which he uses to sweep away debris–nails, wood bits, and gravel. Since these were recently construction sites, they can be messy.

With the path clear, he positions the friend at the nearest intersecting road to watch for unexpected traffic. Then he hops on his board and carves his way down an empty hillside. Imagine coasting alone, doing ollies and slides along the way, a warm mountain breeze against your skin, the gentle woosh of your board’s wheels on the new pavement, and in every direction, views meant for million dollar homes. This is deserted Appalachia at its best. This is a skater’s paradise.

2 Comments

  • David Waters

    interesting follow-up to the abandoned coal-town segment, contrasting the old vs new. one typically associates the word ‘abandoned’ with something old or out-dated, but this just emphasizes the fact that abandonment can happen to anything at any time. i say let the boarders have it. in our community (waynesville, nc) the council is considering funding a skateboard park, probably not a real popular move in these economic times, particularly when there are so many abandoned high-dollar communities here in which they may play. the ultimate irony from the original intent as gated communities….let the disc golfers have it too…..

    if you like abandoned buildings, check out this site and the ‘ruins of detroit’ entry on the left side of the page….excellent photography…love your site!

  • mike fergusons

    As a once avid skater I am happy to say in my home town of Roanoke we have Three skate parks in the area yet for such Along time till the Xgames got big skateing was so looked down apone and feared .Yet people have gotten the minds in the right place and relize that sakters are athlites and with such said I think the kids should also be alowed to have this area.You know what would it hert…

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