Efforts to raise funds to expand the Augusta Skate Park to make it more welcoming to newcomers to the sport are dedicated to an Augusta native, killed at just 19 in a car crash this year, who was known for welcoming newcomers to the skate park he loved.

Chris Thompson, who was killed in April when his car went off the road in Scarborough, started skating when the Augusta Skate Park first opened in 2010. He was a fixture at the park known by nearly everyone who skated there, in part because he was so welcoming and friendly to newcomers and beginner skaters.

“There aren’t many people who’ve been to that park who don’t know him,” said local businessman and former professional skateboarder Tobias Parkhurst, who helped raise funds for the creation of the park in Augusta. “He was a larger than life kid, full of energy, very driven. The story people will tell you, about when they first came to the park, is that Chris made them feel welcome.”

Parkhurst said no one would be more stoked about the plans to expand the skate park than Thompson. Especially since the expansion would add more beginner-friendly areas for new skaters and make the park, like Thompson himself was, welcoming to people of all ages.

“There’s not a lot of open space and we’d like to add some of that, and add some obstacles that are a little lower to the ground, so kids don’t have to start on something that’s 5 feet tall,” Parkhurst said. “We’ve found there’s a lot of stuff at the park that guys like us can enjoy, but your first time at the skate park, when you’re facing a 5-foot bowl, and you’re 4-feet tall, can be pretty intimidating.

“What we want to do is spread out obstacles that are still fun for old guys like us to skate,” he added, “but also be more inclusive for the younger people as well.”

The expansion, expected to cost about $100,000, will be built with privately-raised funds in the city-owned park. It will be in a flat area just south of the existing park features.

City councilors voted unanimously Thursday to allow the expansion of the skate park, which is within the multi-use Williams Park at the intersection of Bangor and Quimby streets. The approval was granted as long as funding for it is privately raised, the design and construction are overseen by city staff, and conform with all building and safety standards.

“I think it’s a really nice community resource,” Councilor At Large Marci Alexander said of the park, before the vote Thursday. “We’re so fortunate to have people willing to step up. And I think it’s a very fitting tribute to the young man.”

This May 18, 2013 file photo shows Chris Thompson, riding in the bowl in the Augusta Skate Park during the Maine Sk8 Series Jam. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file Buy this Photo

Raegan LaRochelle, at large city councilor, said when Parkhurst and fellow skaters Billy Peaslee and Trent Rideout first presented the proposal to city councilors, “Anything that encourages young kids to be out and doing something active is a win-win for Augusta, thank you for your commitment to this.”

“We’re just looking to expand the park in honor of our friend,” said Rideout, a Pittston native who now lives in Westbrook but still comes to skate at the park on weekends.

Bruce Chase, the city’s director of parks and recreation, said he and Leif Dahlin, community services director, “are both totally supportive of this project.”

“What Tobias is trying to do is amazing,” Chase said. “And the idea of where the park will go will integrate well with what else is going on at the park.”

Williams Park also has basketball courts, a pool, playground equipment and a large lawn area.

Parkhurst said they’ve raised about $33,000 of the $100,000 sought to expand the park.

Donations may be made via a gofundme page for the expansion or by donating funds designated for the Augusta Skate Park to the Augusta Boys and Girls Club. The club is acting as a fiscal agent for the fundraising effort for the park and Parkhurst said donations to it are tax deductible.

Fundraising plans also include selling a soon-to-be-released pro model skateboard made to honor Thompson, featuring his artwork. Thompson was an artist who made and sold clothing of his own design.

In a fundraising video made by Peaslee, Thompson’s mother, Amanda Thompson, said that Chris was a great big brother to his little brother, Eli.

Parkhurst said they hope to start construction of the expansion in the spring of 2021. He said skateboarding can be a lifelong, character-building sport.

“What’s exciting about this sport is how inclusive it is, I’m 41 years old and routinely skate with people both older and younger than me,” Parkhurst said. “In my opinion, learning how to fall down, and get back up, and learning how to fail doing hard things, and learning to work harder and be successful, is a skill to be able to take and apply to the rest of your life.”

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