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Monday, Sept. 15, 10:41 a.m.
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Class of 2013 proposes skate park as graduation gift

The University of Maine Class of 2013 has officially proposed a skate park as its graduation gift to the campus.

Following in the tradition of other graduating classes — such as the Class of 1944, which has donated extensively to UMaine throughout the years, represented by both the Bear’s Den and the Class of 1944 Hall — the Class of 2013 stepped up its efforts on Feb. 16 when its members brought their proposal before the planning committee for the first time.

“We wanted to do something innovative and different,” said Paige Eggleston, head of the 2013 class council. “This is the first time we’ve been before the committee, and we received some great feedback. We’re still in the beginning stages, but this project is something that has a lot of potential.”

Going before the planning committee marked an important step for the class council.

Ultimately, the committee will track the project’s progress, and when the park’s final details have been ironed out, committee members will make their recommendations to the university president, who approves all such building plans on campus.

But details are far from complete, and spearheading an effort to build a skate park will pose a difficult challenge for class leaders, according to those involved.

Eggleston estimated that, including materials and construction, the park could cost as much as $150,000, all of which the Class of 2013 will need to raise on its own.

She also conceded that despite a feasibility study conducted by Facilities Management, not much else has been done in the way of design, fundraising or finalizing a location for the park on campus.

At this point, Eggleston said very little money has been raised for the park’s construction, something she says is just now getting under way. Recently, the class applied for a $25,000 grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation. The class will learn whether it was approved for the grant in March.

“We’re working with many different sources, and there’s a lot of different people on board with this,” Eggleston said. “People really seem to be supporting the idea because it’s new. There’s really nothing like it in the area.”

One interested party is the town of Orono. According to Norm Poirier, the director of Orono Parks and Recreation, the town has long expressed an interest in building a skate park.

If all goes well, Orono has $12,000 on hand to put toward the campus project.

“Right now, I believe we’re on board,” Poirier said. “We haven’t seen any great details or meetings on the matter, so at this point it’s just conceptual. But I think under the current proposal, the town will partner with the university on this one.”

Eggleston said that class leadership will pursue local businesses to generate sponsorship funding as well.

Though no official site plans or design work have been completed, the park will be about 50 feet by 75 feet. Eggleston said the wooded area immediately next to the New Balance Student Recreation Center parking lot is the most likely location for the park at this point.

It will be a “typical skate park,” with half-ramps, grind-rails and other obstacles, according to Eggleston.

Elaine Clark, the executive director of Facilities Management, Real Estate and Planning and a member of the planning committee, said the scope of the project alone could reduce its likelihood of completion by the time the Class of 2013 graduates.

“The committee is very open to the idea, but they did have a number of concerns,” Clark said.

Among them, according to Clark, are the risks involved with having such a facility on campus. Everything from security  and lighting to fencing and overall safety will have to be considered.

Clark added that both design work and cost estimates will have to be completed in order for the project to go forth.

When it does, Clark said there will be an extensive permitting process and stipulations in the campus master plan that will require additional scrutiny on clearing the wooded area near the rec  center’s parking lot.

“This has a long way to go,” Clark said. “We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”

Eggleston said that she is prepared for the challenges. She estimated that at least half of the fundraising will need to be completed before the project can get off the ground. The Class of 2013 is aiming to get the project underway by the time it graduates.

When asked if she was comfortable with the thought of her class leaving a skate park as its legacy, Eggleston replied with enthusiasm.

“Most definitely. It’s something we don’t have on campus right now. I love the idea of benches and gardens because those things are very practical,” she said, “but we’re taking an extra step to leave a mark by working to do something that hasn’t been done before.”