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Monday, April 14, 11:57 a.m.
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On-campus skatepark shows renewed student interest

Roughly 40 University of Maine students, faculty and members of the Greater Bangor community met in the New Balance Student Recreation Center’s conference room Friday to discuss putting a skatepark next to the Hilltop parking lot.

Two weeks ago, a janitor called the police on Paul Van Steenberghe, a professor in the mathematics department, for trick biking on the stairs near Hitchner Hall. Robert Norman, a University of Maine day sergeant, was dispatched to the scene. According to Steenberghe, Norman told the professor the stairs weren’t off limits, but situations like this wouldn’t happen if UMaine bicyclists and skaters had a skatepark.

Now, University of Maine students and faculty are trying to create the United States’ first on-campus concrete skatepark.

“This is groundbreaking in that there is no other university in the U.S. — there’s only one in the world — that has a concrete, poured-in-place, open-to-the-public, free, no-fence skatepark,” said Josh Kaffer, director of the Black Bear Skatepark Association.

“I think the idea that this is a unique thing in the university environment and that it’s cutting edge. I think these are all really big bonuses,” Director of Recreation Jeff Hunt said. “The push right now at this institution is, What makes us unique?”

Orono earmarked $12,000 for a skate park in 1998 and Old Town earmarked nearly $38,000 for a skate park in 2006, but neither were built. The Class of 2013 tried unsuccessfully to build a skatepark at UMaine as their class gift. According to Hunt, the key is strong and persistent student involvement. Hunt helped with previous efforts to implement a skatepark and seems keen to do so again.

Hunt and Keffer suggested that students get a club together and start raising money for the skatepark. Club events would show student government and higher level faculty that students are serious about establishing this park.

“If we can get an endorsement from student government that this is even conceptually a good idea, it would go a long way,” Hunt said.

Matt Strong, a fourth-year engineering student is taking the initiative to start a student skater club.

Hunt and Kaffer seem encouraged by the turnout of students at the meeting.

“I’ve never had this many people in one space talking about [the skatepark],” Hunt said. “I sent this email to five people, I think, and this many people showed up, so the network’s good.”

Professor Steenberghe encouraged students to email Robert Dana, vice president of student affairs, to ask for a skatepark.

“Sixteen percent of kids between the ages of five and 25 in the U.S. ride a skateboard once a year,” Keffer said.

There will be another meeting about the skatepark in the Recreation Center’s conference room, after students return from winter break on Friday Jan. 18.