Parks And Rec Tearing It Up With Local Skaters
- May. 2, 2012
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As of April 20, Lawrence said goodbye to a landmark of recreation. Tucked away in the valley of Centennial Park at 600 Rockledge Road, the skatepark has been many things to many people over the last 14 years. It has been an unofficial daycare, a venue for birthday parties, a competition grounds and a training facility, but for the time being, it is no more.
But soon, it will be back in spades.
According to Rowan Green, supervisor of Lawrence’s #2 park district, the old park served the city for 14 years and was slowly crumbling atop the foundation of an even older tennis court. “It was in disrepair and something had to be done,” Green says.
Taylor Brown, 19, has spent most of his life in Lawrence skating the park every day and heartily agrees with Green. “There were safety issues that needed to be taken notice of and fixed,” Brown says, citing the cracks that would frequently catch skaters’ wheels, causing unnecessary falls.
Under supervision of Green, along with Parks & Maintenance Superintendent Mark Hecker, the city approved funding for the project last year and formed a committee consisting of city staff and community skateboarding activists.
According to David Campbell, member of the Lawrence Skaters Association, there is a core of skaters at the heart of the reconstruction effort that was involved with the original construction 14 years ago.
“I’m new in town but apparently, the first time around, the city didn’t give them a lot of respect in terms of their knowledge and their opinions,” Campbell says. “When I got involved, they thought their chances weren’t good to get cooperation. That turned out to be not true. There was a tremendous amount of cooperation very early on.”
Green states that the LSA took a great interest in the project, attending city commission meetings and helping the city narrow down the potential contractors, a process made tricky by conflicting interests.
While the city wanted to tear up the original foundation and re-pour it completely, every estimate the city received projected that this alone would have spent the overwhelming majority of the $125,000 budget. As such, the drafts for potential expansions on the pre-existing obstacles fell short of the skateboarding community’s expectations.
Despite the apparent conundrum, the city stayed resolute on meeting the needs of the skaters. “We didn’t want to go through the whole process and have the community say we did it wrong,” Green says.
Eventually, the city and skaters were given a unique proposal from Who Skates Municipal Skatepark Design and Construction, based out of Kennebunkport, Maine. Who Skates proposed that instead of tearing up the foundation, they would build new ramps, ledges and rails atop the pre-existing obstacles.
Tom Noble, owner of Who Skates, says that he believes the old park served the city of Lawrence “amazingly well,” that he is surprised it held up as well as it did over the years and that he plans on the new design lasting even longer.
After months of deliberation, a panel of two LSA members and three parks and recreation members finally agreed on the design, giving Who Skates the all-clear.
“We were hoping and trying to be the voice of the greater skateboard community in Lawrence and that’s where it gets really tricky: trying to get everyone to agree,” Campbell says.
Though Campbell admits that getting skateboarders to agree on a design was tantamount to herding cats, the LSA concluded that the Who Skates design did the best job of reaching a compromise. While some skaters wanted a large concrete installation mimicking a drained swimming pool, others desired a layout that better approximated a street-skating setting with benches and stair sets. By following comments posted by locals on the LSA’s Facebook photos of the various designs, it is easy see to that they agree more than ever on the current design.
Despite the fact that the design offers a lot for skaters, it will be much smaller than the old park. As a result, the LSA plans to organize a non-profit operation to finance expansions themselves. “Basically we’re going to have half the park that’s just gone,” Campbell says. “Instead of begging the city, we want to raise funding ourselves.”
Regardless of whether or not further fundraising will come to fruition, Taylor Brown says he is excited about the current remodel and that he visits the site every day to see the progress that Who Skates is making. However optimistic, Brown remembers to have a healthy apprehension until he sees the final product. “What I’m concerned about is how smooth the concrete will be,” he says. “But looking at their other parks, it looks like it’ll be good.”