ORONO, Maine — A meeting of students, community members, and groups interested in funding and building what they’re calling the nation’s first sports and skate park on a college campus drew 14 people, a lot of ideas, and at least two priorities on Friday afternoon.
“I’m really happy about the way things are starting to come together,” said Josh Kaffer, president of the Black Bear Skatepark Association. “Now we have all the various areas and groups working together and on the same page with all this.”
Those in attendance at the University of Maine student center Friday ranged in age from 18 to 57.
“I enjoy BMX and trials biking, and one of my sons enjoys skateboarding,” said Paul Van Steenberghe, who has been a UMaine mathematics department faculty member for 31 years.
Van Steenberghe helped spark this skate park effort, although indirectly.
“I kind of got in trouble for using my bike to do some stunts up here over in front of one of the buildings on campus, and a campus officer came over and spoke to me,” Van Steenberghe said with a chuckle. “But then we started talking and he mentioned how he’d love it if they had a skate park on campus. He encouraged me to talk to Dr. Robert Dana [UMaine vice president for student affairs and dean of students] about it.”
Van Steenberghe spread the word among the boarding and biking community. A week later he went to Dana’s office.
“He said half the emails he’d been getting lately were about the park,” Van Steenberghe recalled. “He encouraged me to try to get an organizational effort going and things just snowballed.”
A month later, the first meeting was held.
Jeff Hunt, UMaine’s director of campus recreation, highlighted the process for such projects.
“Your basic steps, in order, are to establish an official organization and effort, develop a project plan, and take it before campus planning,” explained Hunt, a project proponent who grew up skateboarding on the West Coast.
The group has some funding in place. Old Town has $38,000 earmarked for the establishment of a skate park in the area. Orono has $12,000 with a goal of $26,000 more in matching funds. The remainder of the projected $120,000 cost of the 3,750-square-foot concrete park will be raised by the group.
“We want a professionally designed and built, world-class action sports park that will be free, safe and accessible for the whole community,” said Kaffer.
Kaffer said a site has been set aside for the park between the university’s Hilltop parking lot behind the rec center and the ski trails. There are some alternate sites alongside the UMaine baseball and football facilities.
“Our focus right now needs to be on fundraising and awareness,” said Matt Strong, co-founder of SQUAD, UMaine’s Student Quest for Underground Athletic Development. “Now that the word has spread, this whole idea actually is taking on some framework and organization. Pieces are kind of falling into place, in a pretty cool way sometimes. Like this could become a senior civil engineering student’s Capstone project.”