Spring brings skateboarders back to local parks

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold, Norwich - posted Mon., Mar. 21, 2011
Randy Evans, of Lisbon, catches some air at the Griswold Skate Park. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Randy Evans, of Lisbon, catches some air at the Griswold Skate Park. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

The snow is gone, the temperature is rising, and the skaters are out in force.

There’s plenty of activity at local skateboard parks, as skate aficionados, stymied by the snowy winter, get rolling again.

On March 20, the first day of spring, a half dozen young men practiced their stunts at the Griswold Skate Park on the corner of Hill and Wilson streets in Jewett City.

Ryan McCutcheon, 25, said he traveled to the borough from his home in Marlborough to enjoy the park.

“I came here last year,” he said. “You don’t have to pay, and there’s not many people here. It’s a safe area. No one goes out of their way to hassle you.”

McCutcheon said he also appreciated the park’s policy of no helmets or kneepads for skaters over age 18.

The park does, however, require helmets for younger skaters, a fact that rankles 16-year-old Paco Ramirez of Jewett City.

“A lot of younger kids quit coming here, because it’s the only place where you have to wear a helmet,” he said. Nevertheless, Ramirez had his helmet in tow as he took a break from skating.

Security and safety regulations at the Griswold park were ramped up for younger skaters in the wake of a fatal 2009 accident at a skate park in Sterling. A 13-year-old boy died after crashing his bicycle while riding at the park without a helmet.

Skaters who want to use the Griswold park are required to have a pass, intended to track users and monitor behavior. Users must forfeit the pass if they break the park’s rules.

The Griswold park opened in the fall of 2009 and was designed as a “street-style” park, incorporating architectural details like railings, walls and ledges.

Randy Evans, 21, of Lisbon, said that local skaters met as a skateboarding committee with builder Paprocki Concrete and Masonry of Mystic and “pretty much told them what we wanted in a park.”

“For a transition-type skater, you have the wall ride, the quarter pipe, the hammer, two hoops and a quarter bowl,” said Evans. “Whatever style skateboarding you like to do, you can come to this park and do it.”

On Mahan Drive in Norwich, the Donald L. Alfiero Skateboard Park drew a younger crowd of teens and “tweens.” Four neighborhood buddies who live within walking distance delighted in showing off the moves they’re working on perfecting. “We come here every day,” said 13-year-old Israel.

Kane, 13, demonstrated a 360 flip, in which the skateboard rotates in a full circle at lightning speed under the skater’s feet. Other skaters rode the half bowl or did “grinds,” in which the skateboard’s truck (wheel mount) slides across the edge of a rail or ledge.

Kenny, 11, performed an ollie, an aerial move in which the skateboader’s feet remain on the board as it floats through the air. He said he’s been skating for about a year and learning his moves from Kane.

In Norwich, helmets are optional for all, and none were in evidence. Unlike the Griswold park, it’s not fenced in. Opened in 2000, it has since undergone improvement and installation of new features, funded in part by skating competitions.

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