Skate parks revamped in Chesapeake Country
By Keri Luise
It may be an Olympic sport now, but skateboarding has come a long way.
Originally called “sidewalk surfing” skateboarding originated in Southern California where surfers worked on their form by riding streets on a piece of wood strapped to wheels. In the ‘80s it was a counter-culture lifestyle, with perceptions of skaters as destructive vandals that congregated in abandoned swimming pools to skate late at night. It caught the spotlight during the emergence of the X Games in the late ‘90s and a new generation of skaters paid attention.
Today, it is a booming sport that is practically mainstream. Posers are a thing of the past. Elementary school kids wear Vans. American skateboarding legend Tony Hawk is a 53-year-old entrepreneur now.
Skateboarding has become attractive within the local community as well, with all ages turning to new pursuits during the pandemic. Josh Blorstad, co-owner of Pure Board Shop in Annapolis, has witnessed this growth firsthand.
“Last year we were overwhelmed with the amount of new people interested in skateboarding,” Blorstad says. “We had already planned for increased interest with the Olympics but had no idea this many people would be interested. We are very excited about the future of our skateboard community as we have not seen this many 8- to 12-year-olds picking up skateboards.”
According to the International Olympic Committee, new events including surfing and skateboarding lifted the Games’ viewership. A CNBC report stated that on July 24, the games averaged roughly 15.3 million total viewers for its primetime coverage, a night skateboarding aired.
In Memory of Tameron
For Annapolis resident Tameron Barish, most of his life revolved around skateboarding. A concrete skate park with ramps and rails was a second home for the 20-year-old. Yet Tameron died on June 23, just three weeks shy of his 21st birthday.
“Tameron just finished his last final at college. He was getting ready to come home but wanted to celebrate. He took something that stopped his heart,” says Teegan Barish, his older sister. “We won’t know for sure until we get the toxicology report back.”
Knowing how important skateboarding was to Tameron, his family decided to turn their grief into something positive. In lieu of a funeral for him, his family decided to start a GoFundMe to raise money for renovations to the skate park at Truxton Park in Annapolis, a park Tameron had grown up on.
Tameron had been skateboarding since the age of 8 and, according to his sister, “the skate community was where Tameron found all of his friends and really felt at home.”
“We really want to turn this unfortunate accident into something really positive for the Annapolis community,” Teegan says.
Blorstad had known the teen for many years through the local skating community.
“I’ve been gripping his boards along with helping his parents get him birthday and Christmas presents since he was a little kid,” Blorstad says.
Teegan Barish and Blorstad are currently working on a soft proposal to present to the Annapolis Parks and Recreation Department for the skate park renovations. Once approved, they can move forward with a more detailed plan.
“Based on the amount of funding provided for the skate park, Rec & Parks and Public Works will work with the Barish family to establish the scope of work that can be accomplished with the funds,” says David Jarrell, Annapolis City Manager.
“The donations to the city have to be received and appropriated for a specific designated use by the city council. For the funding from the Barish family, the appropriation will be for a capital project for improvements to the skate park. The city will then maintain an accounting record of the line-item usage of the funding for the skate park.”
With a 10-foot fence surrounding the small park, no bleachers or benches, no water fountains, run-down concrete and equipment, the skate park is ready for an upgrade.
“Multiple things need to happen at Truxtun to help make it safer and meet the demands of skateboarding today,” Blorstad says. “The first major improvement would be adding lights. Second would be adding more features to the skate park which will make it fun for skateboarders of all skill levels.”
Blorstad says they have been working with Pillar Design Studios, a landscape architecture firm specializing in action sports, who designed and built the first renovations at Truxtun Skate Park in 2015.
“We feel confident this next phase will make the local skaters and us proud to call Truxtun Skate Park home,” Blorstad says. “In the past it seemed like pulling teeth trying to get the city to do anything at Truxtun Skate Park but this time we feel like we have the right support from the parks and rec department and other city officials to make these much needed renovations happen.”
For skateboarders, the park is an important part of their lifestyle. Teegan says she estimates “there’s about 5,640 core skateboarders in the Anne Arundel County area that are under 19 years old. These youth only have two skate parks to go to in Anne Arundel County, Truxtun being one of them. Being that Annapolis is the capital of Maryland, we really should be showcasing a better skate park and really helping the skate community.”
The other skate park in the county is Sawmill Creek Park in Glen Burnie. That park is also in the process being renovated. In May, the county removed the skate park ramps and new asphalt was installed in late July. New ramps and features are to be added to the park which should reopen in a few weeks.
Those renovations are partly due to a request by a 15-year-old named Lance Collier, who reached out to District 2 Councilwoman Allison Pickard.
According to County Executive Steuart Pittman, the county worked with other local skaters and leaders from the Department of Recreation and Parks, and used park renovation project funds to make this happen. Now renovations are ahead of schedule and under budget.
According to Barish, Truxton Skate Park has only seen one $85,000 renovation during its 20 years of existence while other sports facilities in the area have had million dollar renovations.
“Skateboarders get a bad rap and are [historically] treated as criminals, when in reality they just want to practice their sport and get some fresh air,” Barish says. “We want to make this a safe and enjoyable space for generations of skaters.”
According to Blorstad, skateboarding has clearly lost its “punk kid image and has become more accepted.”
“Some skateboarders have been labeled a nuisance if they are riding in the streets, and there will always be interactions between skaters and security and/or the police from skating in the streets. But long gone—at least I hope long gone—are the days of cops harassing skaters, taking away skateboards or even arresting skateboarders,” Blorstad says.