With skateboards in hand, about 50 people burst into applause on Oct. 26 when the Newport City Council finally approved a large parcel of land for a longawaited skateboard park (and basketball court).
The unanimous council resolution, penned by Vice Chair Lynn Ceglie and councilors Elizabeth Fuerte and Charlie Holder, will set aside a city-owned vacant parcel at the corner of Coddington Highway and John Chafee Boulevard for skateboarding and basketball.
“We are really happy to move forward,” said Doug Sabetti, president of the Friends of the Newport Skatepark. “How wonderful it is when the city can come together and deliver. And this skatepark will definitely contribute to that recreational need.”
The wait for approval was six to 20 years, depending on which discussion, rejection, new city master plan and search for adequate land one considers.
“We finally have a piece of land we can all agree on,” said Ceglie. “We discussed the issue with skateboarders that they needed a resolution with no encumbrances.”
“The only reason we didn’t vote for it in the first place was the location,” Mayor Jeanne- Marie Napolitano said.
Now comes the hard part. The Friends of the Newport Skatepark must raise $1.3 million to build the skateboard ramps and design the outdoor facility, which will include bike racks and other amenities.
“This will allow the Friends of the Newport Skatepark to move forward and raise funds,” councilor Kate Leonard said. “I think this is getting it right. I think it’s a safe environment.”
The basketball court funding is a done deal. The city has been sitting on a $100,000 grant from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management for more than a year, awaiting resolution on determining the site.
Funds for the skatepark will be privately raised, with no other city expenditures. Parking in the area will not be affected, said Sabetti.
“Sixty percent of the kids who will use it live in that area and will be able to walk there,” he said.
Easton’s Beach Park for skateboarders was demolished in 2016 in hopes of developing a modern skatepark at a more ideal location. For at least a decade, residents have been advocating for more recreational activities for young people.