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Skate Park Organizers Looking To Break Ground For Improvements

By JESSE RIFKIN

June 11, 2012

After years of planning and preparation, Hartford's improved skate park will break ground later this summer or early in the fall.

A request for proposal will be released within the next month, making public the offer for construction. Any company can propose a bid, with the lowest bidder receiving rights to the job.

"We should break ground in late summer or early fall," said City Councilman Luis Cotto. "We hope to see something created by the end of the year."

The site at 14 Morgan St. is officially named New Ross County Wexford Park and popularly called 'Heaven' by frequenters. Its flat surface and ledges are already used by skaters and skateboarders now although ramps, grind rails, bowls, and other skate park equipment are not yet installed.

Approximately $163,000 funding is available with $150,000 from Community Development Block Grant bonds allocated by Mayor Pedro Sagarra and approved by the City Council in June 2011.

An additional $10,000 was donated by the Tony Hawk Foundation, created by the famed skateboarder to help finance public skateparks in low-income neighborhoods. This was the first Connecticut skatepark awarded a Foundation grant, out of 493 nationwide.

The original design would have cost over $300,000. A modified less-expensive version was completed in March 2012, created by designer Benjamin McCarthy with input from Hawk himself. McCarthy created the designs pro bono, saving Hartford "thousands of dollars" according to Cotto.

Besides skating features, the final plan contains a stage for concert performances and a graffiti wall.

The city had originally offered California skate park design company SPOHN Ranch the construction rights, but SPOHN Ranch would not do it for the money offered, according to Cotto.

There are no officially sanctioned skate parks in Hartford. Currently, the closest skate parks are located in Rocky Hill, Glastonbury, and Wethersfield.

The issue was first brought to Cottos's attention by his former executive assistant Brendan Mahoney. "I didn't want a skate park," Cotto said, but after later attending a skating and music event at 'Heaven' a few years ago, "I converted."

"It had been the spot for skating in Hartford since at least 1997," said Mahoney, now a student at UConn Law School. "It was the one place you could skate in Hartford without getting kicked out."

Cotto created a Skateboarding Task Force in October 2009. The group included "six or seven regular members," according to Mahoney, including himself and Jordan Polon of the Hartford Business Improvement District.

In April 2010, the task force recommended building an official skatepark in the 'Heaven' park already used by many skaters.

"Having Jordan Polon's approval was key to helping change public perception," said Mahoney, "since the business community were generally the main people opposed."

In June 2010, the Council undertook the final step by unanimously repealed a 1977 ordinance banning skateboarding in Hartford's streets and sidewalks.

"I wish I had jumped on it at first," Cotto said of the Hartford skate park concept. "Everything might have been done by now."

For more information, visit heaveninhartford.org.

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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