Plans for bigger Portland skatepark roll on

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PORTLAND — More than 40 people who spin, leap, rock and roll their way through the ramps, bowls, dips and quarter-pipe at the Dougherty Field skatepark came indoors May 31 for a meeting about expanding the park.

Hosted by city Parks Director Ethan Hipple at the East End Community School, the meeting outlined city intentions to double the size of the 8,300-square-foot park by spring 2019.

“This is a key launching point for taking off and expanding our skate park,” Hipple said. “From the beginning, (the park) was well loved, almost too well loved.”

Hipple spoke to a largely youthful gathering, including at least one person interested in adding space for “parkour,” a French exercise discipline that replicates some of the twists, turns and wall scaling of skateboarding, sans wheels.

“The ability to have a public space will legitimize the sport more,” Ed Whitehead said.

The initial estimate to expand the St. James Street park is $300,000.

“This might shrink, but construction projects rarely shrink,” Hipple said.

As part of the 10-year plan Hipple develops to maintain and improve city parks, he has penciled in a $200,000 capital improvement plan spending request for fiscal year 2019.

Hipple said getting private support soon for park expansion could help his request become part the overall CIP plan and get City Council approval. He will also organize a 12-person committee for input on design and community outreach.

Restrooms and water fountains could also be part of the expansion, Hipple said.

The St. James Street skatepark, set next to ball fields, opened in 2010. Private funding for the project was about $100,000 of the $300,00o cost.

Park expansion is needed, the users agreed, but the design sketches were not what some had in mind.

“They could be doing a lot more,” Max Press said. “This park gets the most attention. On a warm afternoon, you will see 40 people here.”

A first concept for the largest pump track in New England was set aside before the meeting as Hipple understood the system of banked curves and rolling straightaways was not conducive to trick riding.

Given sketch pads and markers, park users were quick to outline their visions for a space that would not have too much level area, and more elements for jumping and other stunts. Press included a pyramid-type structure in his renderings.

“It is too flat,” he said. “You need to have things that are pumping together.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Jasper Tripp, left, Gunnar Johnson and Max Press roll through the Portland skatepark at Dougherty Field. A $300,000 expansion could double park space by spring 2019.

Nick DeCarlo rolls on a half-pipe at the skatepark at Dougherty Field in Portland on May 31, hours before attending a city meeting about expanding the park on St. James Street.

At a May 31 meeting, Portland resident Max Press said expansion of the city skatepark at Dougherty Field should include more elements for stunts and less level ground.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.