Throwing it down for the skatepark


NEWPORT — The Newport Skatepark is getting a sorely needed makeover. While many local organizations and businesses have been strongly supporting the cause, every party credits one man for raising the call: local legend and professional skateboarder Kevin Kowalski.

“The skatepark has been crying for help for years, ever since I’ve lived here, nearly 12 years,” said Jason Nehmer, a skater of 25 years and active community member in Newport.

A few years ago, a similar effort to revamp the park was started in the community, but it didn’t quite take. This time, with Kowalski leading the charge, there has been rousing support from the community as well as two major companies: Dreamland Skateparks and Rogue Ales.

Progress so far

After Kowalski and Nehmer joined forces with a number of local leaders, including Danyel Scott of Dreamland Skateparks and Lisa Johnson of Rogue Ale and Spirits, to create the Newport Skate Alliance, they went to the Newport City Council in January to get approval for initial repairs to the park. Later, the city integrated the first round of renovations into the city budget, which provided $25,000 to aid in improvements.

“There are various phases of approval,” said Nehmer. “And we got approval for the resurfacing, polishing, sealing and painting of the coping, and various things like that. So no new structures or anything — yet.”

Additionally, city’s funding helped clear overgrowth around the park and fix drainage issues. In July, a community clean-up day was hosted to help prepare the park for the construction to come. That first round of repairs, including the resurfacing of the park and handling the overgrowth has already been completed. As for the next steps, the timing is still in the air.

What’s next

“The plan from here on out is to maybe make some more inroads into the woods there — maybe make a little trail system through the Sam Moore Parkway — and also get phase two going for the skatepark,” said Nehmer.

Phase two includes tearing up the bricks in the unfinished portion of the park, pouring new concrete and adding new skate features in the 1,500 foot addition. Dreamland has consulted with local skaters in selecting what the new additions will be.

“It’s the kids that are actually using it, and adults that are using it, that are the ones that will actually help decide what gets put in,” said Noah Smith, Rogue’s head of photography who is heading up their efforts in aiding the skatepark.

For everyone involved, saving the spirit of the park is a passion project. Kowalski grew up skating at the park in Newport; Nehmer, a skater of 25 years, feels a need to give back to the sport that has made his life rich; and Smith said that he was hopeful about seeing the park restored when he first laid eyes on it.

A common thread between all the parties is a desire to give back not only to the skating community but, through that, to the community as a whole.

“We want our community to have a safe place to be able to skate, and a safe place in general,” said Smith. “The entire park just needs to be safe and more productive for the community.”

Nehmer mirrored that, explaining that the skatepark has become “more of a seedy hangout place” recently, and that a healthy and safe skating environment can make all the difference for the kids growing up in the community.

“It’s about helping people grow through skateboarding, and mature,” said Nehmer. “And becoming members of society through that — I mean, I did.”

Nehmer also cited Kowalski as an example of “a stand-up guy” who came from skateboarding.

“Skateboarding teaches you a lot, it teaches you to be strong through adversity,” said Nehmer. “It takes a certain type of person to actually get good at skateboarding, because you have to throw yourself down and get back up.”

City has approved phase two for completion, but has not committed funding to aid in this section of the work. The fundraising needed for the next round of repairs totals $40,000.

“It seems like a lot, but it’s definitely within reach,” said Smith.

With the help of the community, Smith hopes they can break ground on the second round of improvements before the end summer 2019.

Getting involved

There are a number of fundraising efforts running at the moment. “ReNewport” t-shirts purchased at Cafe Mundo for $20 go entirely to the skatepark renovation fund. Direct donations can also be made at Cafe Mundo, as well as through the Newport chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.

Though not running currently, earlier this year Rogue used its foundation tap handle to benefit the cause: for each pint purchased of the beer that handle was serving, $1 went to the skatepark. Smith said that this will start up again in the first quarter of 2019.

Smith also mentioned that a GoFundMe page is currently in the making, so that anyone around the world can contribute to the campaign.

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