SOUTH PORTLAND — Emmons Whited, 12, a sixth-grade student at Mahoney Middle School, loves to scooter with his brother, Gus, 9, and friends – but South Portland doesn’t have a skate park.
So Emmons and some friends gathered signatures on a petition and presented a proposal to the City Council to build a park at Legere Park, on 0.83 acres at the corner of E Street and Waterman Drive.
No city workshop has been scheduled since the presentation, but work continues to move the project forward.
Councilor Claude Morgan said more research would be needed before the council will schedule a workshop, including a public information session. He said Emmons and his family are doing some research of their own, including costs associated with a park.
Morgan said he will be reaching out to other communities to learn more about skate parks, including anecdotal information, statistics and any complaints.
“We would also have a conversation with the neighborhood to see if there is widespread support for it,” Morgan said. “We would need to find the right fit.”
Morgan called Knightville a logical place for the park because Legere Park is underutilized and would likely qualify for community development block grants funds. Morgan also liked the location because it is visible.
“Neighbors and city staff can see what’s going on.” Morgan said. “We would want transparency.”
“If it isn’t a fit and if there is strong resistance, they would look for another area,” Morgan said.
Other open green spaces in the city could be made viable, he said.
Emmons’ mother, Kirsten McWilliams, submitted a petition asking for a skate park to the City Council on March 28 that contained 433 electronic signatures and 144 handwritten signatures, for a total of 577.
With the help of his friends Jack and Ava Smart, Emmons and his mom petitioned the neighborhood.
The friends knocked on the doors near Red’s and Small Elementary School. They also got signatures from Small and Mahoney Middle School students.
Emmons spends one to two hours a week researching skate parks and said he would like to see a transitional skate park with some flow elements for a smooth riding experience. The plan would include ramps and bowls.
Emmons travels to Portland with his grandfather every few weeks to use the city’s skate park, but would like South Portland to build one closer to home.
He also goes to Scarborough, Westbrook and Bath, which has an indoor city-owned park. Skate parks are for more than scooters and skateboards. People use them for inline skating and riding BMX bikes as well.
Emmons spoke in front of City Council on April 3 about his proposal.
During the meeting, Mayor Patti Smith said, “That’s pretty impressive, very impressive. Clearly there is a desire out there, there is some passion out there and I think that it is wonderful to see folks young and old get behind something that might be something that would be an innovative idea for South Portland.”
Some of the signatures were obtained online at https://www.change.org/p/south-portland-city-council-ride-so-po. The online petition currently contains 447 signatures, and more have been added since the petition has been submitted.
For Christmas, Emmons and his brother received trick scooters, but after performing a drop test on the scooters Emmons decided they didn’t sound right, so he took them apart and put them together, tuning them in the process.
“I like to scooter. It never gets old because there are infinite tricks. You can’t really get bored with it,” Emmons said.
Some of the tricks he likes to do are tail whips, 360s, 180s, grinds and bar spins.
His latest goal is to be able to perform a 360-degree tail whip, where he said he would “jump up in the air, spin the deck and catch it in the air.”
Emmons’ father, Scott Whited, said “People were kind, supportive, receptive and made the boys proud of their efforts. Whenever your kids are into something healthy, it is nice to see.”
Emmons Whited, 12, a 6th grade student at Mahoning Middle School, gets air while practicing scooter tricks at Small Elementary School. Emmons Whited, 12, right, and his brother, Gus, 9, ride their scooters at Small Elementary School.