Mark Wallace wants to keep the Ozzy Park story positive.
The soft-spoken driving force behind the Richmond Hill skate park named after his late son, Marcus “Ozzy” Wallace Jr., would rather not dwell long on the vandalism that has been an issue at the park since it opened in 2004.
“We’ve just got to get the kids to take ownership and take care of the park,” Wallace said. “So we can keep progressing, keep getting equipment, have future competitions and raise more money for more equipment.”
The alternative is to shut down the park, which has happened before. But that’s not what Wallace, who spends a few hours a week at the park fixing things up, wants to see. Nor, he said, is it what his son would want.
“I think Marcus would be disappointed in how the park has been taken care of,” Wallace said. “I think the park is a great thing. I certainly maintain that he knows what’s here, even though a lot of his friends are now grown and moved on. The kids need to know there’s a great cost for it. Just to take care of it and be able to use it for nothing is a pretty good deal.”
Not that the park has come without cost. Wallace’s family has poured in about $18,000 of the estimated $45,000 the park has cost. Wallace praises former Mayor Richard Davis, former Richmond Hill City Manager Mike Melton, current Mayor Harold Fowler, former Bryan County Commissioner Toby Roberts, former Bryan County Administrator Phil Jones and South Bryan County Recreation Director Kay Green and SBRCD grounds superintendent Eric Gerber, and Richmond Hill Parks and Tree Superintendent Harvey Lashley for their respective parts in the skate park’s ongoing story.
It’s a story that springs from one of the worst tragedies a father can face – the loss of a son.
Marcus Wallace Jr. was 13 in 2002 when he was killed while trick-or-treating with friends. He was on a skateboard and was struck by a van on Highway 144 near Strathy Hall. The world lost a talented athlete and a happy kid who loved to skate but also excelled at football and baseball.
Afterward, the family got permission from city officials and raised nearly half the money to build the skate park, which was moved from its original location in 2010 in an effort to combat the vandalism and petty crime that occurred “within the first month” of the park’s opening.
More than $2,500 was raised at a single skateboard competition in November 2010 to improve the park, and it now includes a quarter pipe and assorted other ramps and benches, all constructed to give skaters a safe place to practice their sport. More equipment was added recently.
As a result, it draws skaters from around the area and as far away as Bluffton, S.C., Wallace said.
And it draws him.
“It’s good for me to get out here and think of my son,” Wallace said. “It helps, thinking of the park and keeping it in the best shape possible for the kids, giving them somewhere safe to go. Through the years, I’ve done a lot of repainting of a lot of the pieces, and I’ll come out and tighten up a lot of the equipment, talk with the skaters, that type of thing. It helps.”