Skate park applies for public/private partnership

Young organizers are forging ahead with a public/private partnership application to upgrade and maintain a skate park on the Southwest Corridor Park (SWCP).

Wheels of Steel, an organization founded by Brian Leff, a recent Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) graduate and JP resident, has spearheaded the transformation of a former disused hockey rink to a skate park near the Stony Brook T Station. It’s used by riders of skateboards and scooters.

According to SWCP Parkland Management Advisory Committee (PMAC) President Janet Hunkel, Wheels of Steel just got approval from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) for the park’s safety, a crucial step in making the park “street legal.”

That means making sure that it is an “officially reviewed, inspected and permitted facility that passes public safety requirements that DCR goes through for all its facilities,” DCR Partnerships Director Conrad Crawford told the Gazette.

The safety checks include structural inspections to make sure the skate park will not impact the train and subway tunnel directly beneath it, Crawford said.

Wheels of Steel is also finalizing an application to a DCR public-private partnership to allocate funds for further improvements and repairs, Hunkel said. A decision is expected by the end of the month, Crawford added.

That partnership would provide Wheel of Steel with DCR-provided matching funds to do work “that is required to bring it up to standards,” Crawford said.

“We’d like to button up the area,” he said. “It’s very informal right now. It’s not as tidy as we would like it.”

A Gazette email to Leff was not returned by press time.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with them [Wheels of Steel],” Hunkel said. “They have been really sincere. They really care about this park.”

Hunkel compared this community-driven park to the skate park created under the Zakim bridge. That park cost the City $2.6 million, while this park is expected to cost just $35,000, she said.

“I feel really good about it,” Hunkel said. “I really feel like DCR wants to make it work.”

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