Greenport Skatepark can serve as a lesson to us all.

At the extreme northeastern tip of Long Island lies the quaint village of Greenport, a quiet community that differs dramatically from the stereotypical Seinfeld suburbs of New York City. In this rural land of wine and potatoes you won’t find strip malls, expansive parking lots, or universities replete with kinked handrails, marble steps, or waxed ledges. But over the river and through the woods you will find a 20,000-square-foot concrete-and-wooden wonderland affectionately known as Greenport Skatepark.

The idea for this unique facility arose in 1995 when skaters set up some shoddy ramps behind an abandoned restaurant in town. It was here that dedicated locals patiently plied their four-wheeled vices on substandard inclines and declines. Not the type to look a gift horse in the mouth, these pre-pubescent skaters were happy with what they had, and religiously sessioned this place night and day. The world was their oyster, or so they thought, until their dilapidated pine dreams were deemed an eyesore and a public nuisance. Shortly thereafter, their private little land of misfit ramps was summarily decommissioned.

All hope wasn’t lost, however, and through the backing of concerned parents, new ramps were quickly erected in a more forgiving area near the high school. This second spot, known as Fireman’s Track, also attracted quite a lot of activity. It was quickly realized that additional space and more sophisticated ramps would soon be required to cater to the growing number of skaters in and around town.

In late 1997, this situation promptly caught the attention of Greenport Mayor David Kapell, Deputy Mayor George Hubbard, and the Greenport Recreation Committee. After some intense brainstorming the three parties came to the joint conclusion that a public skatepark would do wonders for the Village of Greenport.

Armed with this idea, Mayor Kapell and his supporters packaged and presented their platform to the Village Board, who endorsed it on the spot. However, staunch opposition arose from a leery public that feared the inherent liability associated with the proposed park. This was truly a classic case of apprehension born out of inexperience. In an effort to gain community support for the skatepark, the Village Board, Recreation Committee, and Greenport youths rallied together and instituted a public education program on skatepark awareness.

Throughout this program it was constantly and consistently stressed that a skatepark would keep Greenport youths off of private property and provide a safe and enjoyable recreational environment for all. The community was so impressed with the breadth of information that they felt confident in their knowledge of skateparks and all it entailed.

With their concerns properly addressed and their worries put to rest, the public accepted the skatepark, and local leaders proudly gave their stamp of approval. Now that the hard sell to the public had been achieved, 200,000 dollars would have to be raised to fund the posh park’s design and construction. Through his political channels, Mayor Kapell garnered seed money in the form a 50,000-dollar grant from New York State Senator Ken LaValle. These appropriations got the ball rolling, and the remaining 150,000 dollars was obtained when the Village of Greenport sold a portion of its water district.

With enough money on the table, Greenport Skatepark could become a reality. It was then decided that an undeveloped portion of land across from Fireman’s Track would be used to support the park. With monetary questions fully accounted for, Mayor Kapell and company found themselves in unfamiliar territory. They were all flying by the proverbial seat of their pants since none of them had ever built a skatepark before. Now they needed guidance on how the facility would ultimately be designed, constructed, andd operated.

To address these issues Mayor Kapell enlisted the aid of New York City’s Riverside Skatepark Director Andy Kessler. An individual already experienced with the trials and tribulations associated with getting skateparks up and running, Kessler was able to incorporate elements from preexisting East/West Coast skateparks and successfully design a customized layout for Greenport.

The finest professional craftsmen were brought in to bring this park to life. At Kessler’s recommendation, master mason Rick Carje was chosen to lay the cement while wood-wunderkind Dave Duncan was elected to erect the ramps. Construction commenced in early June 1998, and halfway through, Duncan was unable to finish due to previous commitments. At this point Floridian ramp guru Tim Payne was brought in to pick up the slack and complete the metal-sheathed ramps on schedule.

By early October, all weather delays, bid and contract obligations/negotiations, and asphalt paving problems had been surmounted and construction ended. On October 30, 1998 Greenport Skatepark officially opened with a demo featuring the professional skate skills of Split Team members Andy Macdonald, Neal Hendrix, and Billy Rohan. This trio’s efforts helped inaugurate the towering twelve-foot-high vert ramp buttressed by a six-foot-high mini spine ramp to huge flatbank. Burly skating also blessed the six-foot bowled cement corner, coped out quarterpipes, pyramids, and various street obstacles on site. With the sheer volume of people in attendance, it was abundantly clear that the park was wholeheartedly embraced and loved by all. Whether a spectator or skater, recognition had to be given to the Mayor and his colleagues who collectively spearheaded a rough-hewn thought bred four years ago and transformed it into a living and breathing entity.

As with anything positive, the cumulative effects of this park rapidly multiplied and continue to this day. The entire facility is insured by the Village of Greenport, adorned with “skate at your own risk” signage, and supported by local law enforcement. In addition to this, the skatepark is completely organized and run by an experienced staff. If you’re wondering who these park administrators are, you already know them. They are none other than the original skaters who were kicked off of their dilapidated ramps beside the restaurant some years ago. However, this time around they’ve learned the system, utilized it, and truly made a difference.

Through their tireless efforts these responsible young adults have exemplified the word stewardship and become positive role models in their community. In essence, they’ve shown mature and extensive problem-solving skills by turning a liability into an asset that can be enjoyed by everyone.