Local skatepark promotes community

Written By: Cole Grecco

April 28th, 2016

An orange, gallon bucket sits on the counter at Galaxie Skateshop in Newport, Ky. The sticker covering the donation bucket reads: Help Build A Local Spot.

The donations will go toward building and expanding the do-it-yourself skate park that’s fixed under the I-471 bridge.

“The park is fully D.I.Y. -- funded mostly through Galaxie Skateshop and other skateboard companies around here and grassroots efforts from the skaters themselves,” said Gary Collins, Galaxie Skateshop owner.

A Northern Kentucky University social entrepreneurship class gave the park a $1,000 donation through the Mayerson Student Philanthropy Project, a project that provides NKU classes with funding to donate to local nonprofits.

The skatepark under the bridge happened to be one of those granted money in 2015.

 Gary Collins, Galaxie Skateshop owner

The social entrepreneurship class toured the skatepark, where they spoke to local skaters and learned the history behind the park.

“When they visited they wanted to know how impactful it would be,” said Carole Cangioni who taught the class. “They wanted to know how many people are using this and what would be the impact of having a skatepark for the kids to use and get them off the street, prevent them from getting in trouble?

“So they decided to choose the skatepark. They thought it was a very good idea.”

Josh Tunning, a grad student at NKU, Newport resident and community organizer at Brighton Center and friend of Collins, reached out to a group of active community members about the Mayerson Grant.

“They do all this hard work, the least we could do is see if we can give them a little extra money to continue what they’re doing, which is building an awesome skatepark for the community, but also just building a community in general,” said Tunning.

Tunning said giving the skatepark the grant was a no-brainer.

“It’s a cool project and we’re bringing people together, you couldn’t ask for something better than that,” said Tunning.

The sense of community that helped the do-it-yourself skatepark get the grant is also what drives the park.

Colin Lewis, a junior biology major at NKU and Galaxie Skateshop employee, said the skatepark has a feeling of home.

“It’s somewhere you can go all the time and not have to worry about being judged or not worry about anybody kicking you out,” Lewis said.

Over the years Gary Collins has had the opportunity to see skateboarders like Collin Lewis congregate at the skatepark and add numbers to the ever growing skateboarding scene in the area.

“It does a great deal for the skateboard community,” Collins said. “Kids are meeting new friends, meeting other like-minded people. It also brings in a lot of people from out of town.

“Some of them see skating and they're just enamored by it, so it makes them want to skate so that grows the skate scene as well.”

People of all ages enjoy what Galaxie offers to the community, including Joey Dobbs (left), Brennan Barton (top right), Matt Schwachter, and John Bailey (both bottom right).

Lewis began skating eight years ago when his mom told him to get outside and do something.

“I love skateboarding because it makes me feel happy, it gives me a sense of accomplishment nothing else ever has in my entire life,” Lewis said. “That euphoria of doing a new trick; it’s just so mind blowing.”

Lewis has seen the skatepark develop over the years, from a box and a quarter pipe to a full blown park.

“Its pretty crazy to watch something progress so much and so many people flock to it, because at first no one really even knew about it,” Lewis said. “That saying, ‘Build it and they will come’, that’s a prime example for sure.”

Its pretty crazy to watch something progress so much and so many people flock to it, because at first no one really even knew about it,” Lewis said. “That saying, ‘Build it and they will come’, that’s a prime example for sure.
- Collin Lewis

Lewis also spends a lot of time skating on NKU’s campus, as a mode of transportation between classes and just for enjoyment.

“At NKU there’s a lot of skate spots,” said Lewis. “It basically is a skate park.”

While skateboarding is illegal in a lot of areas, Lewis said he has never had police officers tell him to stop skating on campus.

“Everywhere hates skateboarding,” said Lewis. “You get kicked out of everywhere but, NKU’s pretty nice about skateboarding, they love it.”

NKU may not be telling people to get off of their skateboards, but skateboarding at the university recently became a little more difficult due to the renovations at Founder’s Hall.

A popular skate spot that has been featured in many professional and local videos was recently destroyed due to campus construction. The concrete stairs next to Founder’s have been featured in videos such as Habitat skateboards: Inhabitants, Alien Workshop: Mindfield and Instrument skateboards: Making Noise Vol. 2

While NKU had to remove a favorite skate spot, the skatepark under the bridge is able to expand thanks to the money they’ve received while and offering a welcoming home to skaters.

“It’s definitely brought a lot of people to the Newport scene,” Galaxie Skateshop employee Darius Penick, said about the skatepark under the bridge.

Penick would know -- he frequently skates at that spot.

“I skate there; Seventh street is a straight shot to the bridge, as soon as I get there people there say ‘what’s up’,” said Penick. “Warm up with a couple manuals and shit gets hot, people start coming up, shit gets reckless.”

Matt Schwacher, another Galaxie employee who has been skating for 10 years, said the skatepark under the bridge has given him a place where he knows he’ll be able to shred everyday.

“I know like when I go to the bridge that’s a place that I have for sure to go skate,” said Schwacher. “It’s awesome too because it’s a place that we built. It’s pretty gratifying to go skate at a place that you built with your own hands.”

It’s awesome too because it’s a place that we built. It’s pretty gratifying to go skate at a place that you built with your own hands.”
- Matt Schwacher

The skatepark was built by the surrounding skateboarding community, people like Schwacher and Collins, by hand.

“When we went to the bridge it was kind of renegade, we went there and started pouring concrete in hopes that it wouldn't be torn down,” said Schwacher.

The group worked on the skatepark without machines or contractors.

“We built it like cavemen pretty much,” Collins said. “When we first started we shaped it out with dirt, built some wooden forms, get some water from the creek, and mix up the concrete.”

The renovations at the skatepark are also part of a bigger plan put together by the citizens of Newport called ReNewport.

ReNewport is a quality of life plan that was unveiled this past March which was put together by over 100 citizens, local business owners, elected officials and community leaders to improve the city over the next 10 years.

“One of the things that he [Gary Collins] and actually several other members of the community advocated for was either a brand new skatepark or resources put into the skatepark here,” said Tunning.

For Collins, the park is about more than just having a place to skate.

“The bridge means a lot to me,” said Collins. “As a guy who's grown up around here with no place to skate, no skate park, I've realized the value for kids, as a refuge to other kids who don't have any place to skate and are constantly being told to go elsewhere and here they have a place to go.”