Remaking Londonderry's well-worn skatepark brings area police, youths together

Union Leader Correspondent
May 30. 2018 10:42PM
Jonathan Goncalo, 17, of Londonderry, takes advantage of the sunny weather at the skate park in Londonderry on Wednesday. (RYAN LESSARD/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

LONDONDERRY — Volunteers led by Londonderry police officers Sunday will take the first steps to rehabilitate the town’s skatepark, which has survived an 18-year grind of tailslides and ollies.

Resident Zack Havener, 22, long an avid snowboarder, has of late taken up skateboarding at the park. While usable, he says, sections are falling apart and there are areas he avoids for safety.

“All the screws are falling out, all the wood’s rotting on the inside,” he said.

Only about a quarter of the original screws are left in some structures, Havener estimates. Also, angle irons have fallen off and the corners of some ramp panels have begun to raise.

“Which is kind of dangerous,” he said. “It was built really well, but I don’t think they touched it for 18 years.”

That’s the way Lt. Patrick Cheetham sees it too.

“It’s a pretty legit skatepark,” he said. “It used to be one of the better ones in the area.”

Cheetham, who has been running a social media campaign for the department since last year, has posted videos to Facebook of Londonderry police officer Justin Hallock shredding at the park in full uniform.

After a number of such visits and hanging out with riders who use it, a kid asked if the officers might help repair some of the rotting infrastructure.

Cheetham said local skaters take pride in the park and some even go out of their way doing what they can to keep it clean.

“They went and got their own paint and covered up the graffiti because they didn’t like it,” he said.

Londonderry Recreation Department Director Art Psaledas said the park was financed through a warrant article that passed years ago. After it was built, it became a recreation department asset, but the department has been unable to do much in the way of maintenance in recent years.

“We have a very small recreation department,” Psaledas said.

He said there are only three part-time staffers, including himself.

Sunday’s event at the park is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon. Cheetham expects four to six uniformed officers to participate along with about 20 volunteers.

The idea is to do some cleanup and assess the park to determine what kind of work is needed by disassembling and inspecting some of the structures, he said. But that’s just phase one. After the cleanup, volunteers will meet to brainstorm ideas for repairs and improvements.

Over the summer, Cheetham plans to buy about 20 sheets of pressure-treated plywood and host more volunteer events to rebuild the park a section at a time. There might even be opportunities to construct new elements, he said.

The summer-long project will culminate with a big rally and perhaps a skating competition in August. Cheetham hopes major skateboard brands will participate.

Beyond creating a safe, fun park anyone might enjoy, Cheetham sees the work as an opportunity for police to connect with area youth and establish mutual goodwill and trust. So far, Cheetham said that’s been going well, with some skaters even connecting with police on Facebook.

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