Sunday, August 4, 2013

Letter to the editor - Stop vandalizing the skatepark By Josh Warren

The picture the front page of The Windham Eagle shocked and upset me. It was a picture of the Windham skatepark covered in garbage, vandalized and sadly disrespected. The picture and the message it portrayed sadden me, as if I had just seen an old childhood friend bullied and beaten to shame. The article describes vandalism that occurred when the Windham Council decided to stop funding the payroll to have the skatepark supervised during the day. I am sure that when budget cuts were going around, I am not surprised that the skatepark would be one of the first to get the chop. I am also not surprised that this sort of vandalism and disrespect could come from young people, who like to live fast, take chances, and push themselves to extremes. However, this sort of act is like biting the hand that feeds you. I have more faith in young people these days that the fact that someone skates does not make them a bad, violent or destructive person; at least that was the message I, and many others, were trying to convey when we fought hard to open and keep the skatepark.

I remember when I was in middle school and a skateboarder, the only places I and my friends were able to skate was loading docks, curbs, stair sets, handrails and any other entertaining slab of concrete or asphalt from North Windham to Westbrook to the streets of Portland. At a young age I began making a name for myself with the local police of these areas as a trespasser, vandal, punk, lowlife, troublemaker, burden to society, and received numerous tickets, citations, and arrests for simply doing what I loved: Skateboarding. My defense when a police officer rolled up to the spot? “Well, if we had a skatepark we wouldn’t be out here on the streets getting in trouble! We aren’t hurting anyone!” or my favorite, “Well where the hell are we supposed to go?”

This is exactly the reason why the Windham skatepark was built. One day after school, Keegan Smith came up to me with something that resembled building plans of a skatepark on the back a piece of homework paper. Mostly spearheaded by Officer Matt Cyr, for once in my life I was working together with the police to create a positive space for young people like me to develop and do what I loved without ending up in jail.
Over the next few years it was a struggling battle to get that skatepark approved by the town, funded, built, opened, maintained, litter and drug free, as well as free of charge, with concessions, and available for as many hours in the day as we could. Some friends and I became the Skatepark Committee with the guidance of Cyr and his connections. So to me, this sort of vandalism seems personal.

I feel like all that time so many people had spent, trying so hard to convince others that this project is a good positive place for generations to come, has been slowly going to waste. The very ramps that sit there are the starting points for many people my age that used that space as a launch pad to an amazing life. People for the first time rolled their wobbly legs across that pavement, have grown into professional snowboarders, professional skaters, ramp builders, and the skills they learned there have brought them around the world and famous. People, who get paid to skate, started out here. People who live all over the country skating and doing what they love, visited and used the park daily for years. Life-long friendships were made within that square of tar. Challenges were overcome. Confidence was learned there. Dreams that were sparked here, resonated and began here, against all odds, were able to come true. This skatepark gave direction to a generation that was always being told to “move along” before its existence.

I just hope that if I speak the importance and love I have for the skatepark and the people who helped make it happen, the ones that use it today can have a respect for what it actually represents. It represents hope, action, direction, confidence, positivity, faith and future. That is why the skatepark needs to be kept as a treasure to pass along to future generations, respected and cherished, if not for us, than for others in the future to have the same opportunity of being a member of society, rather than casted to the sidewalks. Don’t let the skatepark be taken away and stop the Windham skatepark destruction!

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