Letter to the editor: Sarah Austin

Rockland Skate Park — Build it back better!

Fri, 10/16/2020 - 8:45pm

Did you know Rockland has a skatepark at Oceanside High School? Maybe you remember when it was built in a student-led effort in 2002, when damaged sections were removed in 2013, or when it was partially renovated in 2016. If you get close, it’s obvious that time and weather have again taken their toll on the wooden ramps, and vandalism has become a problem as the park fell into disuse from the run down condition. 

The park is a ghost town today- no surprise in its present condition. Skateboards need smooth surfaces to roll safely, and the ramps are now warped, chipped, and broken. That doesn’t stop some determined kids from trying to still skate or bike on it, but surely we can offer them better. Rockland has baseball diamonds, basketball and tennis courts, football and soccer fields. Skateboarding has been popular since the 1960s, and is now an Olympic sport. Look at a quality park anywhere in the US and you’ll find skaters of all ages, and a well-built park is also fun for BMX bikes, scooters, and quad- or inline-skaters. Maintaining this city-run facility will demonstrate that we value inclusivity in recreation, too, and don’t focus exclusively on team sports. Bonus feature - skateboarding is economically accessible because the equipment is simple and not very expensive. 

A grassroots group of adult skateboarders from the area has come together to advocate for a high quality, low maintenance concrete in-ground park, and to raise the money for this project. They’ve connected with the City, the Parks & Rec Committee and the RSU 13 School Board, have already obtained a planning grant, and are looking for community involvement to make this project a reality. I'm impressed with their thoughtful planning, which includes fundraising for future upkeep. This can be a big win of cooperation between the City of Rockland, RSU 13 / Oceanside H.S., the regional skate community, and the rest of us who support healthy outdoor activities. I support this skater-led effort to learn from past evolutions of the park to dial in the design & materials so it can serve Rockland for the long haul.

The city budget and staffing for recreation is stretched so thin, and til now hasn't contemplated the cost of a skatepark renovation, but let's not wait! It can certainly be a community-led effort as it has been in the past. The do-it-yourself ethos of skateboarding has a long record of rallying skaters and neighbors behind park builds. To connect with the planning team, email rocklandparks@gmail.com.

You probably won’t catch me dropping in to the bowls, but I’ll be cheering from the deck when we prove as a community that we can build back the Rockland skate park, and build it back BETTER. Our youth deserve a long-term asset, and not a cyclical eyesore. 


Sarah Austin lives in Rockland and is the city’s Parks & Recreation Committee Chair. She is also a candidate for the City Council