New Skate Park Plan Ready To Go

David Sepulveda photoThomas Breen photoParks Director Becky Bombero asked the dozen skaters, skateboarders and bikers assembled before her what day of the week they would be available to come to help pull weeds as their sweat equity contribution to a new skate park.

“Almost everyone has Sundays off,” BMX rider Justin Kearney said, “since a lot of us in retail have to work on Saturdays.”

“OK, what time on Sunday?” Bombero asked.

“Probably not too early,” the group responded in unison.

Thus was the latest round of negotiations between local skaters and the city parks department as the city finalizes its plans to rebuild and expand the Edgewood Skate Park, a 20-year-old public amenity that sits behind Edgewood Park’s Coogan Pavilion near the intersection of Whalley Avenue and Fitch Street.

On Tuesday night at the Coogan Pavilion, Bombero and city landscape architect David Moser held a public meeting with a small, dedicated group of local skaters to review the final designs for the new skate park. They also hammered out the details around the sweat equity that will be required of the skaters in order for the new park to come to be.

Earlier this year, the City Plan Commission approved the designs for the expanded park as submitted by Bombero, Moser and David Peterson, whose Bridgeport-based Rampage Skate Equipment company has contracted with the city to design and build out the new park.

The city has allocated $70,000 in capital funds for the current fiscal year towards the first phase of the skate park rebuild, which could begin as early as the first week of May. Bombero said that she has put in a request for another $70,000 in capital funds for next year’s budget that would be put towards completing the second phase of the project. 

The City Plan site plan review states that the proposed expansion will convert 1,464 square feet of existing asphalt to lawn and 6,562 square feet of lawn into concrete pavement. There is no plan to change the total square footage of the skate park’s existing 18,750 square-foot footprint.

Since the skate park sits in protected wetlands on the northern side of the West River, the City Plan Commission approved the project on the condition that the city engages in a certain level of environmental remediation so as to mitigate the effects of the expansion.

The city and local skaters have agreed to undertake a series of landscaping projects to better protect the Edgewood Park’s wetlands before the skate park construction begins. They have committed to removing Japanese knotweed, mugwort, and other invasive plant species from the area, and will help plant in their stead native ferns, shrubs, shade trees and wetland seeds.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, Bombero got the skaters to commit to putting in a day’s worth of landscaping work starting at 11 a.m. on the second Sundays of April, May and June.

Poring over the final designs and schematics for the new park, the skaters happily agreed.

Much like the initial skate park design meeting that the parks department held in Jan. 2017, Tuesday’s night’s gathering was filled with technical and esoteric enthusiasm for all the small details that go into making a great skate park.

Unlike at last year’s meeting, the skaters who came out to Coogan Pavilion on Tuesday night had before them a specific, approved and realizable design for what their hometown skate park could very soon become.

Moser set up two printed displays at Tuesday night’s meeting. One was the new skate park’s approved site plan, which outlined in red the new designs for the expanded park. It also highlighted in blue the layout of the existing park, and provided two green circles on either end of the plan for the new rain gardens that will serve as natural drainage spots for any rainwater runoff.

The second display showed detailed cross sections of the different steps, ramps, quarter pipes and Euro Gaps that will constitute the new park.

Eyeing the quarter pipe and vert extension, or “tombstone,” at the southwest corner of the park, Anthony Papagoda said that he really liked the diamond coping that Peterson had used on a previous project in New Britain. Any chance New Haven could get some of that?

“I’ve got 20 pieces of that still kicking around,” Peterson said. He said that he would incorporate it into the final build.

Neighbor and veteran skateboarder Ben Berkowitz asked if the current table tops would be saved.  A skater named Jim said that he would like to see some kind of launch ramp. Kearney wondered if the old pyramid obstacle could be turned into a quick vert wall.

“One of the things we’ve learned during this process is that it’s really hard to translate a skate park into a schematic plan,” Bombero said with a smile.

Peterson, who said that his company has designed and built 180 skate parks around the world since he first founded Rampage in January 2000, talked the skaters (and this skating-illiterate reporter) through the designs.

The park will extend around 110 feet from north to south, with banks and ledges and steps lining its eastern edge. Two giant wedges of concrete “pizza” will sprout forth from the ground on the southern edge and cantilevered ramps will ensure that no concrete will be poured onto any of the roots of the trees near the West River.

The western wall of the park will consist of a continuous quarter pipe that will gently decrease in height from around six feet to around four feet from south to north. The southern end of the park, which constitutes phase one of the project, will generally have higher ramps and obstacles, while the northern end, which constitutes phase two, will be closer to the ground.

“The thought was that we would build the perimeter,” Moser said, “and let people use the park for a while. Then we’d have another group design for the kind of things that people would like to see on the interior.”

The group recommended that Bombero, Moser and Peterson begin construction for phase one as early as the first week of May. Peterson estimated that phase one would take around six to eight weeks to complete.

Then, come the first week of July and the finalization of next fiscal year’s budget, Peterson and the city will know if they have the additional $70,000 in requested capital funds that they deem necessary to complete the second half of the project.

Bombero and Peterson said that, if phase two is fully funded, then the entire project could be finished by this summer.

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posted by: JCFremont on February 8, 2018  9:44am

Pardon my naiveté but…..In a time of mandatory bike helmets, seatbelts, car seats to preteen and going up to bat looking like a hockey goalie, in a state that all things must be “about the children.” Isn’t it kind of odd that the city is building a concrete celebration of possible injuries? Hey I’m not starting a movement too take this down or close it down but I wonder who is responsible when some kid breaks an arm or ends up with a head injury? I see the photo above there is no headgear being worn. Are the kids insured? all on Husky?, OK, they may be young adults but insurance companies must view them as children up to age 26. I know it keeps them off the street or public spaces and of course they believe they are indestructible.

posted by: CT DRV on February 8, 2018  10:04am

If I recall correctly, the city purchases insurance for the skatepark. Many municipalities across CT (There are more than 20 public, town-owned skateparks) have some form of skatepark in their town, and in 18 years of skateboarding, I can’t ever remember a town having to foot the bill for some lawsuit- hence the posted signs around the park. Skateparks that have helmet laws (like Fairfield) require a worker to monitor the park, which often causes clashes and conflicts around the regulation, leading less people to use the park. When this happens, the municipality has sunk a fair chunk of change into a place that fewer people will use, negating it’s original purpose as public space and a public good.

The benefits of increased travel to Edgewood with the upcoming expansion will only be a boom for local businesses, especially any one selling cold Gatorade or food. Again, as a skater, people travel from all over the state to skate high quality public parks. I would take a look at Willimantic’s concrete skatepark, arguably one of the best in the state. It’s in a very very small rural city and my skater friends from New Haven regularly make pilgrimages out east of the river to visit it.

posted by: JCFremont on February 8, 2018  2:09pm

Thanks CT DRV for the info. As I said Pardon my naiveté. As long as everyone ones covered enjoy. Tried not sound to “Get off My Lawn-ish.” I’d like to see the tennis courts resurfaced. PS does the city need to have the tennis court lights on during the winter?

posted by: BenBerkowitz on February 9, 2018  12:36am

JC Fremont,

The tennis court lights are on a call box. If they are on it is likely because someone was playing tennis earlier. At least that’s how I understand it. Hopefully we can get similar for the skatepark.