By Marjorie Nesin
---- — Though people often pin skaters as reckless and delinquent, some of Gloucester’s most skilled on wheels are proving just the opposite — even repairing their favorite, city-owned hang out.
Rusted ramps, peeling pavement and cracked cement characterize Gloucester’s only skate park, next to O’Maley Innovation Middle School
“The park is falling apart,” says Michael Asaro, a 21-year-old Gloucester High School graduate who began skating at the park back when he attended the middle school. “Either way, it’s a sport where you do kind of get hurt once in a while, but this damage has made it much worse. Every year, we see more cracks, ramps falling apart, just damage. It gets worse and worse.”
But, Asaro, who has broken an ankle twice at Gloucester’s park, is not just complaining — and he’s not just talk. He and friends have grouped together to repair and maintain parts of the skate park that most sorely need care, and plan more fixes in the future.
Skateboarders now grind along the corner of a bench with a steel lip, a bench that was once two benches with no grindable edge. Asaro and friends chipped in to buy a $100 piece of iron, dragged the two benches together, filled a gap with cement and fitted the metal to the edge.
If Gloucester could keep up with repairs, fewer people would resort to skating in streets and parking lots around the city, Asaro said, because while the skate park by O’Maley calls for repairs, it still outshines skate parks in nearby towns.
So, Asaro, along with a group of about 10 of his friends, come whenever they can, even shoveling snow from the park one time this winter to clear it for skateboarding in hats and mittens. The group cannot get enough of the confidence boosts, the adrenaline rushes and the teaching moments, he said.
“It’s nice to see other people getting into it because it’s a hobby where you’re doing trial and error and when you actually get something and you keep improving, it’s a really great confidence boost,” Asaro said. “People don’t see skating for the actual friendly environment it is.”
Though Asaro and his friends picked up slack on some repairs, Asaro noted that a trash can recently added to the park and pretty frequently emptied by the Department of Public Works (DPW), has significantly helped cut back on littered trash building up in the area.
Department of Public Works Director Mike Hale noted that the skateboard park sees frequent vandalism and the general use wears down on the equipment at a more rampant rate than the city can afford to reinvest in the pieces.
“Skating or BMX biking on ramps and such is tough on the physical equipment,” Hale said. “It’s all concrete. I don’t know if the equipment is dangerous or in really bad shape. It just needs to be maintained probably on a better basis.”
Hale added that money is tight for repairs of playgrounds and skateboard parks, which stems from tax dollars.
“There’s a competition for resources city wide,” Hale said. “Everyone has needs and everyone’s probably very right to say that.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.