Charles River Skatepark, long delayed, now set to open in 2013


Johanna Kaiser, Boston Globe

Skateboarders in Boston and Cambridge cannot always find open space to skate without being chased off or fined, but a long-promised skatepark that could provide a concrete oasis for them is slowly but surely on its way, its builders say.

The Charles River Skatepark, a proposed 40,000 square foot skatepark under the shadows of loop ramps to the Leonard P. Zakim Bridge, has faced a number of setbacks and changes over the past decade, but could be ready to open by the end of next year.

“We plan to start preloading the ground this spring and complete the drawings and permitting for a construction starting date in March 2013. The construction takes 9 months, which brings us to an opening date of December 2013,” Renata von Tscharner, president of the Charles River Conservancy, said in an e-mail.

It’s an opening date that’s been a long time in the making.The conservancy, a non-profit advocacy group aimed at renewing and maintaining the Charles River Parklands from Boston Harbor to the Watertown Dam, began planning to build the park in 2001, but the economic downturn in 2008 and the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s concerns over the cost of longterm maintenance stalled the project.

The state looked for funds from federal stimulus grants and the Big Dig mitigation funds and considered contracting a third party to build the park while the conservancy maintained it. Last year, the state reverted back to the original plan of allowing the conservancy to build the park, according to von Tscharner.

Now the conservancy, armed with $2.5 million it raised between 2004 and 2008, will build the park while ongoing maintenance is covered by the Department of Conservation and Recreation and money raised from special events.

Skateboarders and spectators can expect a restaurant built on nearby land and other amenities could be offered once the project is complete.

“It might be possible to have a separate structure where skateboarding equipment can be sold and maybe also skateboards rented,” von Tscharner.

The city’s skateboarders are eager to see the possibilities realized.

Broderick Gumpright, standing amid sneakers, sweatshirts, and boards at his Orchard Skateshop in Allston, said that he is “excited” to see the plans for the skatepark finally coming to life and expects the park will attract skaters young and old, who have been searching for their own space.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity for the kids of Boston to skate without getting in trouble,” Gumpright said, noting that adult skaters “are not so enthusiastic to spend the day running from security guards,” either.

While skateboarding is not always seen as an accepted sport, Gumpright said there are new skateparks being built in New York City and ongoing efforts to bring a skatepark to Brookline, which his business partner Armin Bachman has been working on.

Gumpright is optimistic the Charles River location, which will be the largest skatepark in New England, will bring attention and new skaters to the sport.

“I don’t think there’s anything that can compare,” he said. “It’s going to be incredible.”

Proposed pedestrian bridges will allow skateboarders to reach the park Cambridge, downtown Boston and Charlestown

The North Bank bridge, which links North Point Park to Revere Park in Charlestown, will be completed in June, von Tscharner said.

The partnership between the state and conservancy is similar to the agreement reached with the Friends of the Esplanade Playspace, a private group that built a playground on the Esplanade and then donated it to the state. —

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