Rainy weather didn't deter skaters of all ages from turning up to celebrate the grand opening of the new skate park at Sunnyside Neighborhood Park Tuesday evening.
John Shoaff, commissioner of the Prince George’s County Planning Board, kicked off the event, calling the park a “great opportunity for young residents to practice skills, participate in healthy outdoor activity and have fun.”
Members from the park's planning committee, College Park City Council and community gathered at the new park, located at 10110 Rhode Island Ave., at 6 p.m. to celebrate the event and watch skaters practice their moves.
Planning for the park began in 2007 with its initial funding coming from former College Park Councilmember Thomas Dernoga, who was unable to make it to the Tuesday opening. The park features a 4-foot deep flow bowl, as well as several different areas designed for tricks.
Kevin Green, a 24-year-old skater from College Park, says he was happy to hear that Grindline Skateparks, Inc. would be building the park because he said they are known for building legitimate skate parks.
Green was on the park's planning committee and says it was a long process, but he’s pleased with the result.
“It was about making sure skaters still had input and everyone got something they would enjoy because at the end the meetings were closed to skaters,” Green says, adding that parents and council members don’t have as good a perception of what a skate park needs.
The park was designed to accommodate younger members of the community and to be accessible for skaters of all skill levels, according to District 1 Councilmember Patrick Wojahn.
Wojahn, Councilmember Fazlul Kabir and Mayor Andrew Fellows attended the grand opening. Fellows said the planning process was a real community effort and skaters packed the council chamber during meetings.
However, not everyone was completely satisfied with the process and its outcome. The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which owns the park and will be responsible for its maintenance, made adjustments to the design that some felt were unnecessary and detracted from the quality of the park.
Tom Roszkowski, a 40-year-old Silver Spring resident who has been skating for 34 years, says the M-NCPPC’s adjustments may deter kids from coming to the park.
“They wanted everything smaller because they thought it would be safer, but smaller isn’t always safer,” Roszkowski says. He explained that the redesigned 4-foot bowl is shallower than the skaters wanted, and a shallow bowl means less reaction time when a skater falls.
Fourteen-year-old Dylan Bipat of College Park says he lives nearby and plans to use the park, but he would have liked the stairs in the skate park to be wider, in order to get more tricks over them.
The M-NCPPC was concerned that leaves from overhead trees would clog the drains of the bowl if it were bigger, but Roszkowski says there’s an understood etiquette among skaters when it comes to their safety; they will clean areas where debris could cause them to fall.
Chelsea Greene, a 29-year-old skater from Upper Marlboro, said the skate park seemed well-built and echoed Roszkowski’s thoughts about its size.
“Younger skaters would build up to it,” she said. “You have a connection with people who skate, even if you don’t know each other, you take care of each other.”