Monday’s high temperature and oppressive humidity didn’t discourage Kyle Stevens, John Tupper and half a dozen other young skaters from testing their skills at the skateboard park at Williams Park in Augusta.

Tupper, 13, shows up “pretty much every day,” arriving early and leaving late. Informally known as the Augusta skatepark, the facility opened a couple of summers ago and has fit in nicely at Williams which includes two basketball courts, a swimming pool, a playground, a parking lot and a large grassy area that often accommodates Frisbee catching dogs.

Already popular, the skate park really took off this summer with the completion of a large concrete bowl that attracted participants and onlookers before it was even completed.

“That was the buzz around that they were pouring the bowl,” said Toebee Parkhurst, an Augusta businessman and former professional skateboarder. “The day that the bowl was completed at one point I counted 53 people.”

Parkhurst, 34, chaired a committee that oversaw phase one of the project and kind of took on phase two as his own project. He secured a $10,000 donation from the Tony Hawk Foundation before any plans were drawn up, then helped solicit donations from businesses and individuals to complete the project. The first donation was $100 from the mother of a skateboarder who has since moved to Boston. She recognized how badly her son wanted a skatepark, as did Parkhurst, who left the state in 1997 to pursue a professional career in the sport.

“When I was younger this was something that I always wanted so bad,” he said.

Augusta’s is one of three state of the art facilities in the state — the others are in Portland and Lewiston — and although skateboarding comes across as a competitive sport, particularly at the annual X Games, Parkhurst said “that’s really not the spirit of it.”

Skateboarding is about kids, and often adults, hanging out and having fun. Parkhurst shows up mornings two or three times a week and says he often sees an older crowd that picked up the sport in his generation. That usually includes fathers and their kids.

“It’s by nature very communal,” he said.

Parkhurst sees an economic benefit from having a skateboard park, too, something he calls the “cool factor,” that draws young talent that grew up skateboarding and would like to see their kids have a place that wasn’t available to them.

Augusta tore down its original skate park, located on Gage St., a few years ago. It served the community well but wood doesn’t last as long as concrete does,

“I like the new improvements, that it’s concrete and it’s not going to fall apart pretty soon,” Tupper said. “It’s well built.”

If concrete and skateboards sound like a lawsuit ready to happen, that hasn’t been the case so far. Tupper and Stevens each admitted to having hurt their hips but that’s been it for them so far. Parkhurst pointed out skateboarding is statistically safer than many traditional sports and that Hawk, the world’s most famous skateboarder, has only broken one bone in his life.

“As scary as it looks and seems, the facts put skateboarding as safer than the majority of things young kids do,” he said. “The level of danger you’re in is up to you.”

A 15-year-old was killed in Sanford last week as he was hit by a motor vehicle while skateboarding through an intersection on a city street. A skate park might have provided a safe alternative.

“There’s a saying in skateboarding,” Parkhurst said. “If your city doesn’t have a skatepark, your city is a skatepark.”

As much as Tupper and Stevens enjoy the park right now, they wonder if they’ll be a phase three, one that might include lights. Parkhurst said right now, there is no phase three although he didn’t rule out any more improvements. He said he didn’t think the park at Williams would have been built 15 years ago and praised the city for its forward thinking.

It came in well under it’s original budget of $300,000, too. With in kind labor and materials, the total cost has been $75,000 with most of that raised through fundraisers and donations. So far, it’s been a bargain, not only for Augusta but for kids from surrounding communities.

“We’ve had so many kids coming from so far away, coming to the park all the time,” he said. “I feel lucky that people have been open-minded. I’m busy celebrating the success.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

 

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