Skate park may be coming to SWCP

A group of young skateboarders is breathing new life into a nearly-unused part of the Southwest Corridor Park (SWCP) by transforming it into a skate park. The skaters have begun legitimizing their temporary park and hope to make it a permanent fixture.

“I, and others, feel a connection with the run-down area and long to improve the appearance and function of the spot,” said Brian Leff, who is one of the youths taking charge of the project. “If it became a full park, we would spend more time there and less time grinding on public objects and benches.”

In its first life, this bit of the park, just south of Minton Street, was meant to be a half-sized roller hockey rink. As kids lost interest, dog owners took it over as a fenced-in dog run. Next came the skateboarders, SWCP Parkland Management Advisory Committee (PMAC) President Janet Hunkel said.

“At some point, [PMAC member] Jeffrey Ferris met some of them and he encouraged them to come to a PMAC meeting to present their idea,” she said. “The idea [for a skate park] was enthusiastically supported and several of us continue to give them various types of assistance.”

Samantha Overton, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) head of urban parks, has also talked to Leff and his fellow skaters about what’s needed to get the park officially going.

Currently, the area is empty. The wooden ramps have been moved to a DCR shed after neighbors complained about the perceived debris. The skaters’ first step in legitimizing the park would be to garner neighborhood support and to draft a proposal for the permanent park.

The skate park would be kid- and family- friendly, Leff said.

“There are playgrounds, basketball courts, dog parks and tennis courts, so why couldn’t we have a skate park, too? Not every kid plays sports and skateboarding is a great way to express your individuality while at the same time interacting with a group of like-minded people regardless of age, race or religion,” he said.

Leffe is a student at Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt), an advantage he plans to use: he has created a student organization, Wheels of Steel, that MassArt would potentially fund.

“I have requested $1,700 for cement, tools, and safety equipment for the park,” Leffe said. “I am not too sure how much money I will be getting through this group but it’s definitely a start.”

Leffe is also reaching out to other students for their help in 3D modeling of the proposed changes.

So far, most of the improvements have been temporary in nature. But with the involvement of DCR and MassArt, Leffe hopes for major changes.

“In a year, the park would have all the walls painted, and possibly a mural on top of that. There could be four to five different cement features around the park. It all depends on how soon we get permission and how much money we can raise through the community,” Leffe said. “In five years it could easily be a fully functional public skate park.”

A skate park usually includes ramps, half-pipes, domes and other skating obstacles of varying heights and difficulties.

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