FARMINGTON – On a brisk November afternoon, just hours before the first snowfall of the season, a half dozen people show up at the Dragon’s Nest Skateboard Park, hidden behind Hippach Field on Prescott Street.
“Skateboarding isn’t any fun without other humans,” Tyler Brown says, watching as others in the group take turns on the jumps and rails in the park. One feature, a round bowl-shaped indention in the pavement, is partly filled with rain water and a handful of oak leaves from one of the many trees that overshadows the park; a skater tempts the inevitable by coasting in ever-tightening circles around the edge of the water, but jumps away just before getting the board wet. Angular contact ball bearing
This is Maine’s oldest public skateboard park.
The Dragon’s Nest Skateboard Park was built in the early 1990s. The park was the first to be owned by a municipality, but with the new territory came a host of unknown factors, concerns about liability, and other challenges. The park was only open for a couple of years. When maintenance issues arose, the park was filled in, and remained buried for about thirty years.
Matt Foster, Director of the Farmington Parks and Recreation Department, said that the department had some plans to reopen the park, but the process was jumpstarted in 2020 by a group of volunteers who helped unearth the park.
Two of the volunteers, Eli Davis and Tyler Brown, started an informal after-school skateboard program this fall. For about ten weeks, Davis and Brown met at the park every Wednesday after school to spend some time on the boards. The program began with a couple of kids but quickly grew into something more.
Buoyed by the interest, Davis and Brown are looking for ways to move forward. While the winter months are inhospitable for outdoor skateboarding, they are looking for options to continue the group indoors. The nearest indoor skateboarding venue is the Anti-Gravity Center in Carrabassett Valley, but they are concerned that the travel will prove inaccessible to many of the youth who have been participating; something closer to the Farmington area would be ideal.
Brown, a teacher in RSU 9, feels that there is a certain resiliency learned and built through skateboarding. “When you get physically knocked down and have to get back up,” Brown said, “It creates that resiliency.” He feels that trait can carry through other areas of a person’s life beyond the skatepark.
Davis and Brown are exploring options to make their group an official sponsored program, either through the school district or the town.
One of their goals is to create a supportive community for the younger generation, providing them with positive role models while engaging them in physical activity and providing teamwork and leadership opportunities.
While creating community is important, keeping the kids safe is equally so. Through the winter, Davis and Brown plan to spend some time fundraising and gathering resources. A few of the youngest and newest skaters lack the necessary equipment to participate, borrowing from others when they can, but the group hopes to change that.
The group has received a generous donation of wooden boards from Cousineau’s Wood Products out of Anson, but the boards need additional components to make a fully operational skateboard. A pair of trucks, the piece of hardware that fixes the wheels to the wooden board, costs $35; the wheels themselves cost an additional $20, and the required bearings are $15 on top of that. In additional, safety gear such as helmets and pads comes with a price tag.
Davis and Brown shared, “At the end of the day, what we really care about is providing young people in the community with a fun, healthy way to spend their time in a positive community, and would look forward to working with whatever entity is willing to help us meet that goal.”
The group has started a Facebook page, along with a GoFundMe page.
With regards to the skatepark itself, Foster shared that over $8,000 has been donated by Seth Wescott and the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce over the last few years. These funds are being used to contract with Platform Group out of Florida. Tito Poratta is the lead designer that the Recreation Department has been working with.
Foster said that Poratta has designed some of the best sections of skateboard parks in the world, one of his best works being in Miami. Platform Group is currently working on a new park design, cost estimate, and construction documents for the Town.
The Recreation Department has also made connections with Tobias Parkhurst, president of the Maine Skateboard Association. Parkhurst has been an enormous help wading through the process and helping to find some cost effective ways to move forward with the project.
“Our hope is to have the park design, cost estimate, and construction documents completed in the coming months so we can begin applying for grants and raising funds to build The Dragon’s Nest, 2.0, I guess you could say,” Foster said.
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