Design in progress, volunteers sought for New Paltz Skate Garden

Back in early February, just before the onset of pandemic panic, we introduced readers to a cadre of local teen skateboarders who were tired of not having anyplace safe in town to practice their sport (https://hudsonvalleyone.com/2020/02/06/new-paltz-teens-want-a-skate-park). In January, one of their number, 15-year-old Aletheia Carney, had started a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of raising $10,000 toward the creation of a skatepark, preferably to be located in Hasbrouck Park.

Civic leaders, local businesses and community organizations serving youth quickly got on board the effort. By the end of February, the New Paltz Village Board had voted to adopt it as an official Village project, enabling the donations raised to be transferred to a dedicated fund at the New Paltz Community Foundation when the GoFundMe campaign reached its expiration date. By the end of April, $6,686 had been raised from 107 donors, but the project had lost much of its public visibility, as skateboarders hunkered down indoors along with the rest of us.

That doesn’t mean that the effort has ground to a halt, however. “It’ll probably take two years, but it’s happening,” says Village councilwoman Alexandria Wojcik, a skater herself who has enthusiastically championed the project. “We are building the skatepark.”

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Planning has been in progress behind the scenes, mostly via virtual group chats, Wojcik reports. “We came up with a list of dream features, such as bowls. Now we’re going to have the designers fit those dreams into the site.” As its primary consultant, the group has engaged Placed to Ride Skateparks, Inc., whose founder Stefan Hauser has been designing such parks since 1999 all over the world, primarily in Europe, Puerto Rico and the Pacific Northwest. Three site visits have already taken place – in part to pinpoint spots where bedrock lies close to the surface – and design sketching is already underway. “We’re at the stage of coming up with mockups,” says Wojcik.

Besides PTR’s regional contact, Scott Albright, New Paltz organizers have had phone meetings with staff from the Tony Hawk Foundation and the Harold Hawk Foundation, both of which offer funding support to local skatepark projects. Wojcik confesses to feeling “starstruck” over getting audiences with representatives from these two foundations named after world-famous skateboard pioneers, but the message the local group received was sobering: “They told us, ‘You’ve got to plan on raising half a million dollars.’ But our vision is for a much smaller footprint than those folks had envisioned.”

The site chosen and approved by the Village is essentially the same spot in Hasbrouck Park formerly occupied by the playground, before the new one was built: on the south side, adjacent to Mohonk Avenue. With assistance from state senator Jen Metzger, the Village has obtained grant funding to ameliorate drainage issues long associated with that spot, and work to resolve them is already in progress.

The exact footprint to be dedicated to the skatepark is currently being decided, Wojcik says. Besides the bedrock issue, certain features of the site need to be preserved, including the swing sets that predated the old playground and some memorial trees that were planted in the vicinity. These givens have inspired the group to think of what they’re collectively designing as a “skate garden,” with trails and jump features winding about the obstacles.

“We’re making sure there are shade trees, so people can just chill and watch,” Wojcik explains. “We’re thinking about how to make it a space for everyone. It’s going to be such a perfect central location. Families can come and have their little ones on the playground and the bigger ones in the skate garden, while the parents run a lap or something.” Safety, harm reduction, inclusivity and accessibility are all priorities in the design process now underway, she says, in addition to softening the concrete footprint wherever possible to enhance drainage.

The next, more public phase will involve engaging volunteers to raise awareness and funding for the project. “We need to get creative and figure out how to do that in trying times,” Wojcik says. “We need all hands on deck.”

The project has a Facebook group at www.facebook.com/newpaltzskatepark as well as an account on Slack that Wojcik is using as a sort of “information central” to communicate with volunteers and supporters: https://join.slack.com/t/newpaltzskatepark/shared_invite/zt-fy8bq40w-_oXyaQwOzdV7WsQyDT28rQ. The next organizing meeting will be held via Zoom at 7 p.m. on Sunday, September 13, and anyone who’s interested is invited to take part. To obtain an invitation, contact Alex Wojcik at awojcik@villageofnewpaltz.org or (631) 335-2402.

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