2018-02-08 / News

Old Orchard Beach stake park moves to next phase

By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer

OLD ORCHARD BEACH – The recreation department will help students and community members alike expand and complete the current skate park.

The town released a request for qualifications Tuesday, Jan. 30 asking for skate park contractors to submit applications by Wednesday, Feb. 28. Phase one of the project, which included a full size bowl, was completed in May 2015. Recreation department Director Jason Webber said phase two will include filling in the fenced in area next to the current park with skating surface, and will likely be the last phase of the park’s construction. Webber said that, as with the first phase, he wants to ensure the park is built with help from those who will skate there.

“There’s no plan as to what it will look like,” Webber said. “We want to get the input of skaters and parents, people who use it, and also combine that with the needs of the community to do the second phase. Throughout the whole process, from day one, I’ve always had great participation from high school kids and college kids. They’ve been in every step of the process. Finding a few of them from beginning to end has definitely been very easy. Anybody that has ideas or wants to give input can always email me.”

The recreation department has $60,000 allocated for phase two of the skate park, $20,000 from fundraising and $40,000 from the capital improvement budget. Webber expects the design phase to last through summer and hopes construction can begin at the earliest by this fall.

“We’re looking for a company that’s willing to accept in kind services and work with us because of our tight budget,” he said. “Like anything else, we’re trying to get the most bang for our buck. Skate parks are expensive. You can easily go through $100,000 in the blink of an eye. Throughout phase one and two we’ve had a very supportive council and town manager. It shows the need in this community. We have a lot of adult skaters, parents and kids that still skate our park. It’s used on a daily basis. They shovel it off during the winter time, so it is a much needed and highly used park for sure.”

Webber said he’s considered allowing bikes and scooters in the next phase of the park, but those decisions won’t be finalized until a community group is formed to discuss the project. Bikes and scooters are forbidden in the park because they create small craters in the concrete. Webber said the skate park is an important outlet for students in the community who don’t participate in team sports.

“Prior to 2015 there used to be a wooden skate park where the current police station was,” he said. “One reason why we went to concrete is harsh winters in Maine. Any other material doesn’t last long enough. Concrete is the way to go. I think it’s really easy, especially as the recreation director, to go out and build a program for sports like soccer and football. Skateboarding is a very individual sport where you take the board and express your skills as an individual.”

Eric Santos, Portland resident and Old Orchard Beach native, was involved with design and construction of the first phase of the park. The 24-year-old grew up skateboarding with his father and brother. In high school he served on the recreation board, volunteered at The Ballpark and advocated for skateboarders at town meetings.

“For the longest time we didn’t have a skate park,” Santos said. “We had to make do with the streets. Thankfully we have a spot to call our own now. It took a lot of hard work and effort from people in town. Everyone was working together and we got something beautiful made. It’s a dream come true.”

Santos said he’d like to see the second phase incorporate slow embankments, twists and turns to allow boarders to navigate the whole park without having to push as much. He said that while it would be nice to open the park to bikes and scooters, the park is designed to be used by skateboarders.

“Originally the park was open to just about anyone who wanted to ride,” he said. “Shortly after the opening, we noticed a lot of damage from bikes and scooters. Now we have the rule on a sign, no bikes and scooters allowed. I would like to say that the skaters want to preserve the park. Growing up and being involved with the skate park, I’m grateful for the opportunity to contribute and be a part of the community. If bikes and scooters want a place of their own, I highly suggest them becoming involved with the recreation department. It took over 10 years for skateboarders to get a park built. Skateboard trucks are designed to take damage, not the facility. For bikes and scooters, different parts of their equipment will ding the concrete and create little craters. It’s kind of an unfortunate thing.”

While the park may be for just skateboarders now, anyone is welcome to pick up a board and join.

“It brings people together,” Santos said. “There’s a whole bunch of people skating there, it’s a great time. They’re pushing each other to learn new tricks and pushing themselves just to have fun. It’s not a competition. It’s about bettering yourself physically and emotionally. It’s a creative outlet and a great form of exercise.”

To provide input and get involved in the next phase of the park’s construction, email Webber at jwebber@oobmaine.com.

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