Time to Grind! Rockaway Beach Skate Park is Open!

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It’s time to get your grind on! After many years of consistent hard work, a dream skate park has become a reality. The long-awaited revamped Rockaway Beach Skate Park is now open.

Skaters of all ages and races took to the skate park as the Beach 92nd Street entrance was opened on Friday, August 21. With smiles on their faces, they explored each ledge, dip, curb and grind rail as they tried out the new park for the first time. The skate park is the result of many years of perseverance by Rockaway locals who were determined to bring the perfect place for skaters to gather on the middle of the peninsula.

Like many things in Rockaway, the original Rockaway Beach Skate Park fell victim to Hurricane Sandy, with the metal elements completely wiped out by the storm in 2012. For the skating community, it was a huge loss. But locals didn’t let it wipe them out. Instead, they came together to hold fundraisers to rebuild elements of the park, from ramps to a bowl, and maintain it year after year, but the temporary elements weren’t built to last in salt air. A permanent, concrete park was the answer.

The efforts to make it a reality were spearheaded by Jimmy Dowd of St. James Clothing and those from Boarders Surf Shop. “We were kind of the gasoline to the whole vehicle to make it happen,” Dowd said. But they didn’t do it alone. Dowd credits Pat Smith of Coda Skateboards, the late Tim Hill, Steve Rodriguez, Dennis Reen, Rockaway WISH and many other friends in the community who wanted to see Rockaway Beach get the park it deserved.

With capital funding from the mayor’s office, the borough president and the federal government, the NYC Parks Department started to move forward plans to make a permanent park a reality back around 2015. Locals were heavily involved in discussions for the design. However, after many years of delays, construction did not begin until fall 2019.

Concrete craftsmen, Spohn Ranch, were tasked with carrying out the build out and finished the main elements of the park before the expected December completion date. Last week, the results of many years of hard work were unveiled and made accessible to the community. Skaters are now welcome to explore the skate park’s main features including a snake run and a street plaza. Carefully designed, the skate park is configured to run from east to west, so there’s no cross traffic that could lead to collisions in the park, even when it’s crowded.

As anticipation grew, and some eager skaters were jumping the fence to use the park before the official opening, the park was quickly inspected and the Beach 92nd Street was opened for access. However, finishing touches are still being done. While the skate park elements are complete, other entrances to the park remain closed as the contractors still need to complete a water fountain, a seating area and landscaping around the park. Dowd says he expects all of which to be finished within a month.

Yet for now, local skaters will take what they can get. After so many years of advocating for a proper park, to see it open in any capacity is a huge deal to those who helped make it happen.

“We’ve been trying to get a real concrete park here for a solid 15 to 20 years. We finally achieved it through perseverance, not taking no for an answer and pushing to show how important a skate park is here for so many people,” Dowd said. “When they opened this park, it was magical. When I first got in there and rolled around, the main thing I thought about was how Rockaway Beach is now a legit surf and skateboard destination.”

To celebrate this, the skate park will become a big focus of the next Rockstock and Barrels festival, an event made possible by Dowd and Boarders, that brings focus to Rockaway as a surf and skate destination. “Rockstock will finally be able to hold a proper skate contest. We may finally be able to offer cash prizes. We didn’t have a lot of interest from sponsors to give us a cash purse for a contest before, but I think now that we have a real park, it will be a lot easier for sponsors to look at this and be willing to brand their names here and promote it so we can get some funding for the kids to win money in contests,” Dowd said.

But for now, Dowd says locals are just happy to have a central location to skate. “Local kids are so pumped. Parents are stoked. It keeps kids out of trouble. Rockaway has two skate parks already, in Far Rockaway and in Bayswater, and now we don’t just have to go downtown. Anybody in Rockaway Beach, Rockaway Park or uptown has a place to go within a mile or two,” Dowd said. “Everyone is just really pumped that this is a reality now. The fight has been won. The demand had always been there, and we maintained that vibe of not taking no for an answer and Parks really listened to people on this and we have this park here that will make Rockaway even more desirable as a skate destination.”

An official ribbon cutting for the park is expected sometime in the future. For updates about Rockstock and Barrels, head to www.rockstocknyc.com.

 By Katie McFadden

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