2017-08-31 / Front Page

Do it yourself

Skaters contribute sweat equity to Rotary Park site
By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer


Volunteers completed the final concrete pour of the summer at Rotary Park last week. From left Andrew Syska, Ian Junkins and Adam Legassie have worked together over the past two years on improvements to the skate park. Syska makes all the wooden forms for the park himself. (Grant McPherson photo) Volunteers completed the final concrete pour of the summer at Rotary Park last week. From left Andrew Syska, Ian Junkins and Adam Legassie have worked together over the past two years on improvements to the skate park. Syska makes all the wooden forms for the park himself. (Grant McPherson photo) BIDDEFORD – Volunteers continue to expand on the skate area at Rotary Park with additional funding from city hall.

Additions this summer include a new quarter pipe and “street section” with curbs and ledges that riders would typically find in a city environment. Volunteers hope to complete a small project each summer into the future as long as funds and space within the park allow.

Andrew Syska, 38, started skating at Rotary Park in the early 2000s when equipment was first installed. Syska got involved with the revitalization of the skate park about five years ago when a friend of his, who also skates, started welding some of the aging equipment. Syska also helped with applications to the Tony Hawk Foundation Skatepark Grants for a park in Old Orchard Beach.


Concrete takes between two and three days to harden before skaters can begin using it. Andrew Syska’s parents bought and flipped houses when he was young and he has used many of those skills he learned in renovating the skate park. This was Dayton Sand and Gravel’s third pour of the summer. From left, Pete Marshall, Alex Buechner, Syska, Ian Junkins, Josh Littlefield and Adam Legassie. (Grant McPherson photo) Concrete takes between two and three days to harden before skaters can begin using it. Andrew Syska’s parents bought and flipped houses when he was young and he has used many of those skills he learned in renovating the skate park. This was Dayton Sand and Gravel’s third pour of the summer. From left, Pete Marshall, Alex Buechner, Syska, Ian Junkins, Josh Littlefield and Adam Legassie. (Grant McPherson photo) “It’s a lot of work, we’re thinking of going after grants in the future (in Biddeford). We’ll see,” Syska said.

The city of Biddeford set aside $5,000 for work on skate parks in both Rotary and Clifford parks. Dayton Sand and Gravel has also donated trucks and concrete to help with construction. Thursday, Aug. 24 was the last pour of the summer. He hopes to begin work in Clifford Park by next spring.

“It’s all volunteer work. It’s a labor of love,” he said.

Syska first became interested in skate boarding in his mid-20s and was quickly hooked once he learned how to balance and ride. He said the skate park is an important place for children to experience physical activity in a positive environment. Syska thanked Biddeford Recreation Department Director Carl Walsh and said none of the work at the park would have been possible without him.

“Not many communities have people like that,” Syska said. “We all have nothing but respect and love for him.”

Syska and others’ work has helped foster the next generation of skate boarders. Adam Legassie, 23, grew up in Biddeford and started skating at Rotary Park when he was just 8 years old. Legassie said he was intimidated at first by the older skaters but found the sport to be an easy way to make connections.

“I have a lot of friends with a huge age gap between us but because we skate board together it doesn’t matter so much,” he said.

Legassie began by watching older skaters like Syska and imitating their moves. Legassie started working at Texas Instruments this summer, with advice from Syska who works as an engineer at Idexx. Legassie said Syska has mentored him in and out of the skate park.

“Andrew guided me through life,” Legassie said.

The first project Legassie was involved in was a new ledge and rail at Rotary Park four years ago. Since then volunteers have added a pyramid structure and a half-pipe. Legassie said prior to the half-pipe, projects had only involved smooth surfaces and pouring concrete for curved walls was a challenge. After completing the project, however, Legassie has the confidence to continue expanding the park.

“Our goal now is to have a new obstacle every summer and eventually connect the whole park with smooth concrete,” he said.

The do-it-yourself model of building skate parks is popular right now, according to Legassie. He enjoys the atmosphere of volunteer work as opposed to large companies building parks. He said many self-built parks appear in illegal areas but Rotary Park is unique to have city funding and support.

“This way it’s a safehaven for people who want to get involved in the do-ityourself process,” Legassie said. “And we’re doing it with input from the kids; it’s a learning experience for everyone.”

The concrete pouring is important because it’s the only way to make permanent structures. Legassie said much of the equipment in Clifford Park was not bolted down and has since been stolen. Legassie said the new quarter pipe at Rotary Park is the best work volunteers have done by far and is excited to continue.

“For the future, there’s nothing we can’t do,” he said.

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