Brunswick skateboarders feel loss of parks

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BRUNSWICK — Dillon Cassidy was skateboarding on Jordan Street when he had the close call.

Cassidy, 11, said he didn’t see the vehicle until the last moment, because he was focused on avoiding the path of another car.

“I heard the car coming, and it screeched to a stop,” Cassidy said this week. “It was only a couple feet from me.”

When he recognized the danger he was in, Cassidy was incapable of stopping the skateboard’s momentum, and so he took other action.

“I jumped off the board. If I didn’t jump off, I probably would have fallen off and he probably wouldn’t have seen me,” he said.

He emerged from the incident without a scratch, but it could have been much worse.

Parents and others say the lack of a skate park in Brunswick means more kids like Cassidy are spending more time skateboarding on streets, which translates into more close calls.

“They’re just skateboarding wherever,” said Sam Bernier, who directs the vacation camp for the Brunswick Parks and Recreation Department. “It’s not the best thing. Obviously, safety can be an issue.”

Lack of finances

A few years ago, Brunswick closed its only skate park to make way for Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary school. A year ago, there was an effort to include a new skate park in the town budget, but the $100,000 expenditure didn’t make the cut.

This year, there is no plan to put a skate park into the 2012-2013 budget, but the Capital Improvement Plan does include one for 2013-2014.

Julie Henze, the deputy finance director, said projects like a new skate park often make multiple appearances in the town’s CIP before receiving financing.

“You’ll see things get pushed back a year, many years in a row,” she said.

The lack of a skate park has been more keenly felt since last year, when the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark was closed. It is hoped that the Bath skate park will be successfully relocated to another location.

Teresa Crooker, a Brunswick parent, said vehicle accidents aren’t the only concern. She said she worries about pedestrians and skateboarders occupying the same sidewalk space, as they seem to do in front of the Curtis Memorial Library or the post office.

“There are people coming and going there with small children,” Crooker said. “There’s a rock wall and a lot of exposed brick. It’s a danger to both the skateboarders and pedestrians.”

Jordan Acres

That doesn’t mean that Crooker doesn’t want the skateboarders around. In fact, she said she would like to see the former Jordan Acres Elementary School, directly behind her back yard, become a new skate park.

“What happened to the ramps from the old park?” Crooker asked. “Why couldn’t they be put here? We’re all kind of sad to see the school sitting empty. It would give some life to the area.”

Lori Bozeman, who runs a day-care center across the street from Jordan Acres, said the school closure, and the loss of area skate parks, have combined to drive skateboarders to the parking lot of the former school.

“I see them there quite frequently now,” she said.

Crooker suggested that with some skateboarding ramps, trash cans, and the involvement of the Parks and Recreation Department, Jordan Acres could become the perfect environment for children.

Right now, though, she worries about their safety as they attempt to make the best of old wooden stairs and the rough asphalt surfaces.

She also worries that the abandoned school building gives kids the sense that rules don’t have to be followed.

“There are broken windows,” Crooker said. “I pick up the trash over there sometimes, and I have noticed beer cans and things.”

Randi Salley, a parent of five in the Jordan Acres neighborhood, said she supports the idea as well.

“It would do this neighborhood some good,” she said. “The kids around here don’t have anything to do.”

Healthy activity

Residents said that, while some skateboarders can be unruly, the activity is something that should be encouraged.

“Having a place where they can skateboard encourages them to do that, instead of engaging in negative behaviors,” Bernier, the vacation camp director, said.

“Skateboarding gives kids a reason to go be outside,” Crooker said. “It gives them a way to vent their energy.”

Cassidy said he enjoys skateboarding on the Jordan Acres property, but he misses the old skate park.

“The skate park was really fun,” he said. “After the park was closed, I felt like something was taken away.”

Cassidy said that he treasured the park, not only for the skateboarding, but for the social opportunities.

“Every time I would come, there were new kids there every day, and they were always getting along,” he said. “All of the time I was there, I never saw a fight. It was a peaceful place.”

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @hh_matt.