Skateboarders Brainstorm On Coogan 2.0

David Sepulveda photoThomas Breen photoDavid Moser offered a simple choice to the group of skaters and bikers and rollerbladers gathered in a circle before him Tuesday night: “Concrete vs. asphalt.”

“How critical is that difference?” the city’s landscape architect asked, flipping through his notes on the ideal design of an urban skate park.

“Very!” Nearly everyone in the room shouted at once, voicing their unanimous support for concrete.

“The foundation of a skate park is the most important part to get right,” one skater said.

“Falling on asphalt is like falling on sandpaper,” another chimed in. “It’s the difference between playing soccer on grass and playing soccer on dirt.”

Such was the detailed and passionate and informed conversation that took place at the Coogan Pavilion in Edgewood Park on Tuesday night, where city parks director Becky Bombero and members of her staff hosted a lively hour-and-a-half brainstorming session on how best to redesign the Edgewood Skate Park.

Over 40 local skaters showed up for the meeting to share their thoughts on construction materials and obstacle design and the region’s most reputable skate park architects. All of their observations worked towards accomplishing two goals: the preservation of Edgewood Skate Park as a vibrant epicenter for the city’s local skating community, and the establishment of New Haven as a destination venue for skaters from all over New England to want to visit.

Bombero said she hopes to use their input to inform a Request for Proposal (RFP) that the parks department will put together, budget allowing, to find the right contractor to rebuild the park.

Sitting in a circle in the middle of the Coogan Pavilion’s brightly lit recreation center, the racially and economically diverse group of attendees all seemed to have a few characteristics in common.

Nearly all were young men: twentysomethings with big beards and hoodies, converses and snug winter hats.

Many had traveled widely throughout the region and the country, citing their experiences at well-designed skate parks in Willimantic and Colorado Springs and Woodward, Pennsylvania, as critical to informing their own convictions on what makes for a successful skate park.

And nearly everyone in the room has been coming to the Edgewood Skate Park for well over a decade. This park was their home base, the place where they learned to love to skate.

As the attendees introduced themselves at the top of the conversation, common refrains of “I’ve been skating here for 10-15 years” and “I’m from New Haven and I’ve been coming here forever” filled the room. That deep personal history with the venue served to animate the group’s conviction that the skate park should be preserved and updated, not just for the enjoyment of themselves, but so that it could continue to inspire future generations of New Haven skaters.

“I think it’s a really good idea to incorporate the skate park into the Coogan Pavilion’s current slate of after school programs,” said Joe Kearney of West Haven. “Maybe some one-on-one training sessions to introduce the children to the skate park? There are a lot of kids who would be interested if they knew more about skateboarding and bike riding, and the fact that this skate park is right next to the pavilion makes it a gold mine.”

“I used to come to Westville Day Camp here when I was a child,” echoed Matthew Spodick, a BMX cyclist who grew up right up the hill on Yale Avenue. “I wasn’t really into team sports, and I remember how I used to love to come here and learn to bike and do something positive after school.”

And yet, that nostalgia only went so far. Even though the skaters in attendance had plenty of fond memories of a venue that Bombero cited as being one of Southern Connecticut’s first skate parks of its kind, they also recognized that it could benefit from serious renovation and redesign. After all, the asphalt was cracking, the obstacles were too far apart and oddly angled, and the general layout inhibited one of the most important aspects of any skate park: its flow, or its capacity for a skater’s continuous movement around the course, from obstacle to obstacle, from trick to trick.

So what did the skaters want? Bombero scrawled in magic marker on three larger pieces of construction paper to keep up with the skaters’ suggestions.

Lighting, bleachers, a covered area, integrated nature. “A water fountain would be nice,” Hamden skater Emilio Cucciniello piped in.

Mobile units and designs that accommodated skateboarding, BMX, rollerblading, and scooters.

“We’ve all been kicked out of the Beinecke Plaza for skating on those benches, so maybe we could have some replication of city architecture that we can’t skate on,” one attendee suggested.

Keep the pyramid-shaped four-sided obstacle and lose the six-staired obstacle.

“But whatever you do, don’t touch the grindbox,” Monica Bunton interjected.

And, most importantly, look to contractors who specialize in building parks for specifically for skateboarding. Grindline. Sloppy Sam. Paprocki. These are the vendors who know how to build a parks that skaters will drive miles to visit. New Haven, this group contended, could be one of those places.

“New Haven has to recognize what an incredible opportunity it has here in the redesign of the Edgewood Skate Park,” Kearney said. “Situated between New York and Boston, this city could really become a focal point for skating culture in Southern New England.”

David Sepulveda Photo

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posted by: Noteworthy on January 25, 2017  11:34am

Bombero worries about a few dozen skateboarders - and ignores the thousands of soccer players in leagues and home grown teams; and certainly ignores the thousands of ice skaters. Before Parks and Rec worries about a skate park - perhaps we could worry about mowing the grass and maintaining the soccer fields properly; providing access to the same without keeping them locked up. Perhaps this department can actually maintain the other parks - Edgewood included - so they are safe and pleasant to visit. Pave the parking lots, fix the pot holes, blow and trim. Finally, perhaps Bombero with her newly minted additional management, not worker staff this year, could figure out how to get the ice skating rink back open without recreating the wheel and benefiting her new BFF contractor.

posted by: westville man on January 25, 2017  12:13pm

I am happy to see this- wonderful idea to get the skaters involved in the process.  The tennis courts are great, too.  Would it be in the cards for another basketball court?  That gets as many as 10 kids at once playing and we could double that with one more court an nominal cost.  I’d donate if it was in the works.

posted by: TeachNHPS on January 25, 2017  1:47pm

Nice idea, but what about using resources to create skatepark on the east side of town? East Shore Park definitely has the space for a few ramps, and there are plenty of people who would use it. In addition, let’s get a permanent ice rink back there, too. The temporary one is a nice gesture, but it’s been unusable due to warm temps. Outside rinks need chillers to be of any use.

posted by: 1644 on January 25, 2017  1:51pm

If the city builds a skate park that attracts skaters from NYC to Boston, what does the city gain?  New Haven resident skaters get a better but more crowded facility, but what is the ROI to the city overall?  Non-residents at an ice rink may be charged admission.  Playing fields can generate revenue by charing fees to league users.  Will the demand for this skate park be high enough that the city can charge?  Charging would seem antithetical to the free-rider/trespasser ethos of many skaters, such as those who went to Beinecke Plaza.  Will non-resident skaters spend enough at city hotels and restaurants to justify the investment?  If not, why then build a park so wonderful that it draws folks from far and wide?  Does not New Haven provide enough services for non-residents, such as schools, hospitals, museums, theaters, etc.?  At least those (a) generate some payments in lieu of taxes for the state, and (b) a substantial economic activity in for-profit, tax generating hospitality businesses.

posted by: haterskater on January 25, 2017  5:21pm

In response to 1644:
Although your concerns are valid and aimed at fiscal responsibility, I believe you are neglecting obvious economic benefits. As most local skaters can attest, Edgewood is for the weekdays, whereas weekends are spent day tripping to New York, Philly and Boston (to name a few). There we not only skate the amazing parks, we also contribute to THEIR local economies. Common purchases such as food, drinks, transportation, skate gear/ clothes are multiplied by the hundreds, and that is a conservative estimate.

New Haven has toiled in post industrial turmoil for too long. It is time to make NEW HAVEN the destination. Bringing people from NY, MA, PA, NJ and other parts of CT will not only benefit our economy in the short term, it will redefine how New Haven is perceived regionally for years to come.

posted by: BenBerkowitz on January 26, 2017  9:02am

This was one of the better public meetings I’ve attenended. Thanks to Parks and the skate community for that. This public space has looked out for a lot of kids over the years. It’s nice to see those kids come back as adults and ask that it be improved for the next generation. While most of them were not able to be in attendance the ask will have the largest impact on the under 18 crowd who has the most to benefit from improvements.

posted by: BoboSkribs on January 26, 2017  12:17pm

Really amazing to see so many different generations of Edgewood skateboarders at the meeting! The reasons in favor of this happening are endless, and so many people will and can benefit from having a modern facility. Some of you commenting here seem to think that the 40 people that showed up to this (btw thats pretty good community engagement) are the only people that would benefit, and furthermore, the only people invested in seeing this happen. one of the wonderful things about skateparks (even more so with well designed ones) is that it brings together all sorts of positive improvements that effect a wide range of demographics. For example a skate park like Edgewood, residing in a city park, works to enliven the space by creating opportunities for people who love the park, to not just use the park but also maintain it and enjoy it. The skatepark is a gateway for literally everything else about Edgewood Park as a whole, that ALL users want to see improve, becoming better, safer, and more of a destination. Not to pick on one person, but @Noteworthy your argument is actually one FOR the park, you just have to let go of that part of you that is saying that soccer is more important than skateboarding, and unfortunately for soccer players, the design, look, and use of fields has changed very little since they were invented, where as skateparks have modernized, and changed in many ways over the years, and Edgewood Park Skatepark is unfortunately about 10+ years due for an update.

@TeachNHPS Great idea for East Side, If you look at larger cities, mmost have a skatepark in every section or atleast one on each side, so i think after Edgewood is built, the case to build another would be easy to make.

@1644 Charging is not necessary or appropriate, I dont remember paying to use basketball courts, tennis courts, or fields… Looking for direct return from the facility itself doesnt make sense, and there are real financial benefits to skaters flocking to a great skatepark.