CHATHAM ─ When the Chatham Skate Park at the airport was demolished in 2013, skateboarders, scooter tricksters, BMX bikers, and roller-bladers were left with nowhere to roll, let alone catch some air, unless they wanted to travel. Thankfully, the new skate park opened at Volunteer Park in December, and has been impressing everyone from beginners to seasoned skaters since.
On a recent sunny summer afternoon the park was fairly quiet, but those who were carving out turns on the half-pipes and ramps were enjoying their time immensely. Brothers Patrick and Ryan Rutledge, visiting from Connecticut, had brought their scooters to the park, eagerly commenting on how smooth it rode and how much fun it was to visit.
“The community is amazing here and the monitor is pretty awesome Monday through Friday,” Ryan said, “And it's a really nice park.”
The monitor Ryan was referring to is Noah Mabile, a local college student who has been happily spending his summer days overseeing things at the skate park.
“My job entails making sure that everyone follows the set of rules that parks and rec put forward,” said Mabile. “Mostly what that means is just helmets. Helmets are the most important thing here.”
To ensure that those utilizing the park are well protected, the town of Chatham purchased helmets, which Mabile brings with him, along with several town-owned skateboards, which patrons are welcome to use during their visits.
The original park was a popular destination for local kids, but in 2013 was torn down because the airport needed the land it was situated on. After some debate about building a new park in a different location, Volunteer Park on Sam Ryder Road was chosen, with construction getting underway last August. The park was completed at the end of last December and features half-pipes, grinding rails, ramps, and a wall feature all in concrete, which Mabile and seasoned local skater Nick Cafarelli said is an awesome material choice.
“Personally, I love it,” Cafarelli said. “I love the concrete and I really love the way the half-pipes feel. Some people say it might be small and tidy, but for what it is, I think it's really remarkable. I've really learned a lot here skating throughout the summer.”
Though the new park is physically smaller than its predecessor, that's not something any of its users have an issue with.
“For skateboarding it has an amazing flow,” said Mabile. “Admittedly it's a lot smaller than the old skate park, but to be fair, the quality of the old park was kind of lackluster. They chose quality over quantity at this park. I really firmly believe that. It's a nice park. No one ever complains about it.”
Mabile said it was tough on the skating community in the time following the demolition of the old park and prior to the construction of the new one.
“Chatham has always had a skate park. It's been known for that for a while now,” he said. The town's original skateboard park was built by volunteers at the old Main Street School – now the community center – and later moved to the airport property after noise complaints from neighbors.
Since its quiet reopening, however, skaters and others have been finding their way back, eager to perfect their Beni-Hanas, flips, and pivot grinds.
“It gives an opportunity, of course, to go to a skate park locally, but I also think it's very productive because it gets kids active,” said Cafarelli. “I really think it keeps their heads on straight and keeps them out of trouble.”
“I like how all the kids are starting to come back,” added Mabile. “It gives kids something to do in Chatham. I'm glad they built us another one.”