So Long, “Asphalt City”

Thomas Breen photoAs hot, humid sunlight poured in, skaters whirred across the old asphalt and new concrete. They pivoted atop the quarter pipe and hopped over the lower ramps and obstacles. Some wrapped their T-shirts around their foreheads to protect their eyes from the sun. Almost everyone sported ornate tattoos up and down their arms, legs, and backs.

This sometimes skeptical crowd had nothing but props to offer for the now-completed renovation of the Edgewood Skate Park, which will be celebrated with a formal dedication Sunday.

The skaters worked alongside the city to make the renovation happen. Now they’re thrilled with the results.

Jovon Ladson used to see skaters from Fairfield and Middlesex counties only when he traveled to skate parks outside of New Haven. He said the now-completed expansion and redesign of the Edgewood Skate Park has quickly turned the Elm City into a destination for skaters and bikers from throughout Connecticut.

“New Haven used to be asphalt city,” said Ladson, a 26-year-old Hamden native. Now its sunbaked, 20-year-old skatepark has a new poured concrete extension, and locals and visitors alike are taking advantage of the smooth riding.

Ladson was one of around two dozen skaters and BMX cyclists braving the steamy midday sun one afternoon this week at the new Edgewood Skate Park, which sits behind Edgewood Park’s Coogan Pavilion near the intersection of Whalley Avenue and Fitch Street.

The new section of the two-decade-old skate park represents the culmination of nearly two years of collaboration between the city’s parks and rec department and a dedicated group of local skaters.

Dating back to Jan. 2017, skaters have showed up to planning sessions with the city landscape architect and parks director; they’ve helped guide the designs of the Bridgeport-based skate park company Rampage, which was commissioned to renovate and build out the new concrete section; and they’ve even helped pull weeds from the surrounding wetlands in anticipation of the new park’s construction.

The Friends of Edgewood Park and the city parks department will host Sunday’s launch party for the newly renovated skate park from noon to 5.

City parks and rec chief Bombero told the Independent that the renovations to the park cost $140,000 in total. Half the money came from last fiscal year’s capital budget, half from the current year’s.

“The feedback on the new park has been terrific,” Bombero reported. “It is getting heavy use and lots of excitement.”

As Ladson and his fellow skaters coasted up and down the park’s new concrete ramps and halfpipe, they said that they’ve already been enjoying the new park’s smoother riding surfaces since Rampage wrapped up construction in mid-August.

Ladson stepped onto his skateboard and left the shade of a small tree planted in between the old and new sections of the park and made his way for the new halfpipe.

“People had to travel to find smooth skating,” said a fellow skater who goes by the name Mumblez. Now, with the upgrades to the New Haven park, skaters can find that concrete in Edgewood.

“It’s definitely better than what was here before,” said Anthony Papagoda, 27, who has been coming to the Edgewood Skate Park since he was 12. He lauded the new diamond grind coping atop the halfpipe as well as the new free-standing obstacles placed throughout the older section of the park.

Waiting atop the new quarter pipe was Ben Cole, a 38-year-old BMX bikers who runs the Renaissance Cyclery bike shop with his dad in Plainsville.

“This park is phenomenal,” he said as he took a break in a small window of shade at the park’s southwest corner. He has been coming to Edgewood to bike since the early 2000s, and that the park has come along way since the handful of obstacles and bare asphalt surface he used to ride on 18 years ago.

Alex, a skater wearing a striped purple shirt and a flat-brimmed purple hat atop his long curly hair, agrees.

“They really know how to build a park,” he said about Rampage. As he skated across the old section of the park, munching on an apple pulled from a fruit tree adjacent to the pavilion, his fellow skaters called out from the shade, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!”

Alex smiled, finished the apple, picked up speed, and jumped over one of the older pyramid-shaped obstacles. He then made his way to the smoother concrete of the new section, and glided up the quarter pipe.

Following is the schedule for bands playing at Sunday’s event:

12:00 - 12:20 Construction Paper (punk)
12:40 - 1:10 Loose Trucks (psych)
1:30 - 2:00 Sperm Donor (noise rock)
3:00 - 3:30 Something Young (indie)
3:50 - 4:15 OLD SELF (hip-hop)
4:30 - 5:00 The Foresters (rock)

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