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Hartford Skateboard Park Gets $10,000 From Tony Hawk's Foundation

By JENNA CARLESSO

March 20, 2012

HARTFORD Two years ago, members of the Hartford skateboarding task force began to envision what a popular downtown skate park would look like with a few improvements, such as an urban art wall, ramps and a stage where bands could perform.

The group is now another step closer to realizing its dream, after learning it will receive a $10,000 grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation, an organization set up by the famed skateboarder that supports the creation of skate parks in low-income areas.

"It shows that the national skateboarding community does support skateboarding in Hartford, which we've been saying all along," said David Rozza, an avid skateboarder and member of the task force. "It's not often we get a lot of good news about something young people can do here, and this is going to be a huge boom for Hartford."

Plans for the skate park, known as New Ross County Wexford Park, or "heaven" to those who skate there, include obstacles like ramps, ledges and stairs, an urban art wall on which artists could paint or make graffiti and a stage where bands could perform. The park, which has drawn skateboarders from across the country, sits atop the I-84 tunnel in downtown Hartford.

The Tony Hawk Foundation grant was "the last big push" in fundraising needed for the park, said Laura Rozza, another member of the task force. The group already has taken in $3,000 through other fundraising efforts and received a $150,000 community development block grant from the city.

This was the second time the task force had applied for a grant through the Tony Hawk Foundation. In 2010, it was denied a grant after the foundation said the group needed to do more fundraising and rethink some its proposed designs for the park.

Hawk himself reviewed the task force's application and made suggestions for how it could be improved, officials at the foundation said.

"They took Tony's design comments to heart and submitted a redesign that is a lot more functional , and that we think will be a lot more popular," said Miki Vuckovich, the foundation's executive director. He said the additional $153,000 that the task force raised also demonstrated it was serious about its plan for the skate park.

When the foundation received Hartford's revamped proposal, Vuckovich said, it was "blown away by what the skaters had achieved."

"The advocacy work that the skaters had done was extremely impressive," he said.

Vuckovich also noted the community's efforts in overturning a 33-year ban on skateboarding in Hartford. After considerable public input, the city council in 2010 repealed the longtime ban and designated "heaven" as an official skate park.

"There was a transformation from being ostracized outlaws to working within the system to change the conditions and the perceptions of who [skateboarders] are and what they do," Vuckovich said. "Those kids know they have the power to make change, and will be responsible for creating a great public amenity in town."

"Heaven" is the first skate park in Connecticut to win a grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation.

"This is yet another example of how people are supporting us," said city Councilman Luis Cotto, who has been involved in the efforts. "Everyone is excited."

Task force members said they will work with the city to develop a request for proposals for the project. Construction at the park could begin as early as this summer or as late as the fall, Cotto said.

Organizers are planning a ceremony for the re-opening of the park, and said they would like to invite Hawk and members of his foundation, though no date has been set.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
     
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