BANGOR, Maine — While he may not be the ideal spokesman for skateboarding safety — especially now with his right forearm and wrist in a cast — longtime skateboarder and enthusiast Josh Kaffer seems to be the right guy to promote the activity in Bangor.
Kaffer is spearheading the effort to restore and revive Bangor’s relocated skate park, which was moved from the grounds between the Bangor Auditorium and the former Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce building last fall to a spot on a 9,000-square-foot concrete slab between Maine Avenue and Union Street behind Bangor Radiator this spring.
“There was a lot of negative energy in Bangor after the skate park was dismantled,” said Kaffer, who divides his nonskateboarding time between professional photography and helping raise his 2½-year-old son Isaac with his wife, Randa Jadbour. “Basically, why I got involved was I really saw a need for a park there. It looked like really all they needed was someone to get the word out and organize.”
Kaffer remembers growing up in Washington state and having a great skate park in his neighborhood. He thinks today’s generation should have the same kind of place.
“Essentially there are no safe and accessible places to skate other than Old Town, so it’s a passion for me to be able to play a role in regenerating excitement for the sport in the Bangor area,” he said.
Kaffer, 32, who has been skateboarding for 23 years, is currently focused on two main goals: Increasing volunteers to help work on repairing and improving the park, and soliciting the funding necessary to expand it.
“Essentially we’ve been fact finding and we want to start a nonprofit. We’d like to duplicate what’s happening with the Old Town YMCA,” said Kaffer, who has been an active force in that effort as well. “The idea is to make the kids stakeholders so they have some stock and kind of ownership in it.”
Kaffer talked about his vision for the park on a hot, humid Thursday afternoon while helping repair a 16-foot-wide, 20-foot-long, double-sided ramp at the new location.
“Our goal is to build a park that is a multiuse park that parents and kids can come to use and be comfortable in,” he said.
“Much like the first effort with the young kids around 1999 when we first started a park, we’re fortunate to have a group of individuals willing to work with us to expand and improve the new one,” said Tracy Willette, Bangor Parks and Recreation Department director. “They’ve been more than willing to work with us, make repairs, and enhance existing pieces.”
While there is no skate park budget, the city’s parks and recreation department supplies materials for Kaffer and his group to repair and improve existing equipment.
Kaffer’s best-case scenario for the park is a grand one.
“It’s a 9,000-square foot park, and the general rule of thumb is to spend $20 a square foot to develop one. That means $180,000. But most parks that big cost about $300,000 to develop,” he explained. “There’s one in Lewiston that’s really good. Why shouldn’t Bangor’s be at least that good?”
Although he lives in Old Town, Kaffer has taken an interest in promoting skateboarding throughout Penobscot County.
“Through some of the literature and material we found, we learned there are about 166,000 people in Penobscot County,” Kaffer said. “Back in 2000, there was a national Action Sports survey and they found that 4.6 percent of the U.S. population owns and rides skateboards.
“That computes to about 7,600 skaters here,” he said.
Kaffer’s Black Bear Skatepark Association, also known as Board Bangor, drew 15 people to its first meeting two months ago and 30 at the first skate park building day, where they began to repair all existing ramps and jumps.
“It’s a huge help to us,” said Willette. “With our staff trying to accomplish all of their tasks throughout the city, it’s a big assist for us when a guy like Josh and his group help out like they have.
“It also provides us a group to assist us with a vision of the park and be on site to keep it in good shape and keep it from vandalism,” Willette said.
Kaffer’s Black Bear Skatepark Association now has three board members (Kaffer, Kirk DeGrasse and Dave Saucier) and 200 subscribers on its email list. The group meets twice a month on the second and fourth Thursdays at the Old Town skate park or at the Bangor location.
“The idea that skateboarding is a passing fad is ludicrous. It’s at least 20 years old in terms of national competition and visibility,” Kaffer said. “Right now we are in need of support, especially concerning Bangor. Logistically, we’re taking on a lot of geographic area, so the more volunteers we have, the better to make this viable.”
For information, to contribute money or volunteer to help, call Kaffer at 619-3575, email his group at firstname.lastname@example.org or search for the Black Bear Skatepark Association page on Facebook.