2017-03-02 / Front Page

City Tears Down Skatepark

By Olga Enger


"After hours of hard work, we were finally able to show the City of Newport our skatepark had become almost unskateable and it was time for change,” said Rogers High School senior Tim Boucher. He co-organized a fundraising campaign for a new park as part of his senior project. (Photo by Meri Keller) "After hours of hard work, we were finally able to show the City of Newport our skatepark had become almost unskateable and it was time for change,” said Rogers High School senior Tim Boucher. He co-organized a fundraising campaign for a new park as part of his senior project. (Photo by Meri Keller) When one door closes, another door opens.

Local skaters are hoping that adage proves true after Newport demolished the Easton’s Beach skatepark last week.

“The park had gotten old,” said Cheyne Cousens, manager of Elemental Surf and Skate. “Even from the start, it was never great.” The city does not have immediate plans to rebuild a new facility.

The city built the park 17 years ago to encourage skaters onto the beach and away from downtown Newport, Cousens recalled. Before that, local surf and skate legend Sid Abruzzi built a skatepark in the same location in the 1970s.


Local skaters Cheyne Cousens and Tim Boucher stand on the former site of the Easton’s Beach skatepark, which was demolished last week. To raise money towards a new facility, they have planned an event for March 18 at Mission in Newport at 7 p.m. (Photo by Olga Enger) Local skaters Cheyne Cousens and Tim Boucher stand on the former site of the Easton’s Beach skatepark, which was demolished last week. To raise money towards a new facility, they have planned an event for March 18 at Mission in Newport at 7 p.m. (Photo by Olga Enger) “I hope that the city taking down the skatepark will help things move along faster,” said Cousens. “It was underutilized and in disrepair. Some kids pushed around on it, but this needed to happen.”

Removing the skatepark from the parking lot will return about $15,000 to $20,000 of beach parking revenue, according to the city. However, it is unclear if the parking spots will be ready by this season.

“A skatepark is in the city’s Master Plan,” said Scott Wheeler, Newport’s Buildings and Grounds Supervisor. “It’s an identified need.”

Looking at a failing skatepark with no alternatives on Aquidneck Island, Rogers High School senior Tim Boucher, who also works at Elemental, was given a school assignment that inspired a solution.

“I grew up skating that skatepark. That thing aged with me. I’ve been watching it fall apart in front of my eyes,” said Boucher. “For my senior project, I thought, ‘How can I change the community in a positive way for generations to come?’ And the skatepark was the answer.”

However, the solution was not cheap. A state-of-the-art skatepark would cost around $150,000, Boucher discovered. The skaters hope to model the design after Old Mountain Field skatepark in South Kingstown, which offers features for all levels of skaters.

“After receiving feedback on our Facebook page, the public would really like to a skatepark with a bowl to skate. If we were able to achieve this goal, we would be the only outdoor park in Rhode Island with one to skate,” Boucher said.

Boucher, with the help of Cousens, launched a fundraising campaign for his senior project. To date, they have raised $25,000, which is maintained in a city fund, including a $20,000 donation from Guillaume de Ramel and the de Ramel Foundation.

They also formed a 20-member committee made up of skatepark experts, professional skaters, residents and non-profit leaders to push the process along.

The city will eventually contribute to the fund, said Wheeler.

“We have a limited tax base and old infrastructure. We need to take the city dollars as a match or multiplier to grants and private donations,” he said.

Although the location of the new skatepark is undecided, Easton’s Beach is not an option.

“A skatepark at the beach, with the continual blowing of sand doesn’t work. We tried it for 17 years,” said Wheeler. “If it doesn’t function, it gives the false impression that we are providing the amenity of a skatepark when we are not.”

The skaters agreed the beach, while fun, has drawbacks.

“Easton’s Beach comes with cons such as high winds, sand that can ruin the barrings in a skateboard and salt air that can break down a concrete park,” Boucher said. “With the right barrier, sand can be reduced but getting a new location would be best case scenario.”

The Master Plan specifies the North End has the most children, who would likely use a skatepark, Wheeler added.

“We are in the process of picking a new location for the skatepark location such as Bragga Park, Murphy Field, Vernon, Morton, and the open lot across the street from Kings Park have all been mentioned, and would be amazing location for the new park, said Boucher.

Before moving forward with a location, they want to ensure support from Newport City Council and the neighbors.

“There is still a stigma with the skateparks,” said Cousens. He pointed to a plan for a skatepark in Island Park that crumbled at the last minute, due to a few vocal residents.

Creative alternatives such as a partnership with Middletown or an island-wide effort have also been discussed, said Wheeler.

To work towards their fundraising goal, the skaters have planned an event for March 18 at Mission, located at 29 Marlborough Street at 7 p.m. The event will feature live music by Z-Boys and raffle tickets will be available for a $500 gift certificate to Elemental. Additionally, Mission will donate 10 percent of the sales from the event.

In December, Abruzzi organized “Water Bros Holiday Bash” fundraiser at Parlor Bar & Kitchen, which raised over $2,000 for the cause. At the event, Newport Mayor Harry Winthrop presented the Abruzzi with the “Key to the City” for his years of advocacy for the skate and surf community.

“We are in desperate need of a new park,” said Cousens. “Skating has gone up and down in popularity over the years, but we are getting into a slump. It depends on what is available. A lot of kids are missing out on it right now. “

To keep updated on the project or donate, follow “New Newport Skatepark” on Facebook or email newnewportskatepark@gmail.com.

Return to top