DCSIMG

Ex-US military base to become indoor skatepark

Proposals for a skate park on the site of a former US navy base has been approved by Highland councillors. Picture: Greg Macvean

Proposals for a skate park on the site of a former US navy base has been approved by Highland councillors. Picture: Greg Macvean

  • by ALISTAIR MUNRO
 

An indoor skatepark – with artist studio, workshop and gallery – is set to be created at a former US military base in Caithness.

The project at West Murkle is the brainchild of Caithness Craft Art Skate Surf Ltd, who believe it can attract up to 25,000 users a year and bring an annual economic boost of around £120,000.

Highland councillors at the north planning applications committee have given the scheme, overlooking Thurso Bay, the go-ahead despite a number of objections, including from the community council.

Issues raised by protesters include road safety concerns on the two-kilometre route between Thurso and West Murkle.

There were also fears about children using the coastal path to the location, while many voiced concerns that the developers would not reach the projected visitor numbers.

However, councillors have backed the scheme, saying it would bring the former US Navy communications station back into use and provide an economic boost to the area.

Councillor Maxine Smith said: “This would attract visitors from outwith the area, not just those in Caithness.

And colleague Angela MacLean added: “I think it a fantastic opportunity to have an indoor skatepark so they can use it all year round. It is a good opportunity also to create jobs.”

The former radio station in West Murkle was opened in 1963, during a period of major US military expansion in Europe and Scotland.

Its purpose was to provide the facilities for the relaying of command and control messages between US Naval Command and vessels at sea, notably in the north-east Atlantic and Norwegian Sea.

West Murkle had 12 masts and a communication system housed within a green ‘golf ball’ style radome.

During the peak times of their operation, West Murkle and a nearby station at Forss employed just over 200 on-site personnel. Both bases were closed in 1992.

 

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