A lot of work went into opening now-closed Havre de Grace skate park

January 25, 2012

Just when it seems skateboarding is picking up in popularity again, the City of Havre de Grace razed the public skate park on Seneca Avenue.

When our office was on Hays Street in Bel Air, I could drive by the Skateology shop on Thomas Street virtually any given day of the week and see at least half a dozen boys outside on their boards. Sometimes, they'd be in the middle of the road, creating a traffic hazard, but they were always there, boards in hand. It was obvious they were enjoying their hobby.

In my neighborhood, I see teenagers on their skateboards all the time, though now I think they've switched to longboards. They're pretty much the same, save for the obvious difference. The kids are still trying to do tricks, but for the most part the boards seem to be the preferred mode of transportation over bikes these days (at least that was the case in the fall – not too many people are out skateboarding in the middle of winter).

So if skateboarding is becoming more and more popular where I live, I can only assume the same is happening elsewhere in the county, like Aberdeen and Havre de Grace.

It's a shame the skate park in Havre de Grace was closed after all that went into trying to fund and build the park.

I went through our archives searching for stories on the effort to get that skate park built on Seneca Avenue.

In March 1999, then-Councilman Wayne Dougherty said he planned to ask the city for $8,000 to get what was called the Skater's Corner Project under way. He said the group would only buy portable items so they could be moved from what was then a temporary site to a permanent site once one was chosen. The $8,000, approved by the city in August 1999, was to be used for a fence around the concrete pad poured several months earlier as well as insurance for one year, portable restrooms, electricity for a maintenance shed and materials for a storage shed. Any material left over would be used for materials to build ramps.

The project also got a $2,500 donation from the Havre de Grace Recreation Committee to plant bushes around the perimeter.

Only planned to be temporary, the Seneca Avenue parcel, also considered as a possible home for a new activity center, was ultimately chosen for the permanent park, but not after some opposition.

Stanley Lewis, owner of the former Tranquillity Townhomes, said he was concerned about incorporating the skateboard park in with the proposed activity center because the skate park was "destroying our neighborhood," Lewis said.

He said skaters were hanging out after hours and some drug dealing was going on there, so then Havre de Grace City Manager shut down the park and removed the ramps until the fence was up and a list of rules and regulations was posted.

Finally, in April 2000, the park opened, and the 40-by-80 skating area was filled with skaters. And in July 2001, after a 6-foot half pipe was added, its popularity grew even more and another skate pad, also 40-by-80, was planned for the lot to double its size and the number of skaters permitted to use it at one time.

As many as 200 local skaters were registered with Skaters' Corner Project that had two quarter-pipes, numerous grind rails, street spines and boxes and other popular skating pieces. They were there from when it opened until it closed.

But by 2007, the skate park was empty and the ramps unused. Some local skaters said the park didn't meet the needs of skaters, who felt cramped in the park's confines. Plus, the increasing cost of $5 a day or $50 a year was a deterrent, too expensive for an aging park with outdated equipment.

Finally, after years of sitting empty and unused, the skate park was no longer. Havre de Grace's department of public works took down the fence and the concrete where kids once practiced their craft was removed.

I understand why it was done – a liability to the city, which was paying to insure it, despite it not being used. No one was running it, the interest just wasn't there.

Still, it seems a shame after so much work by so many people for quite a few years, that something they worked so hard for just went away without any fanfare. Not that it's something to celebrate, but it was something good for kids in the city for a while. The skaters who used it saw the results of their hard work and were able to say "I helped get that there."

And now it's gone, the site returned to what it once was – an empty, open lot – and the skate park a distant memory.

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