Ready to roll

Skaters are on their way to rebuilding the Middletown Community Sk8tepark

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

In the late winter of 2015, the reality of local skaters was shattered. Their second home, the Middletown Community Sk8tepark, a township staple for 12 years, was shut down. Though many saw it coming with ramps breaking down and wheels getting caught in crevices, it didn’t make the pill any easier to swallow. Still, the skaters persevered. Fast forward two years, and they’re well on their way to getting back their skatepark, which is expected to be even better than before.

Jump to it: The Middletown Community Sk8tepark was shut down in 2015 after it was deemed unsafe. Now, a committee is dedicated to raising $100,000 to not only rebuild it, but make it better and safer than it was before. PHOTO: Middletown Community Sk8tepark

After the skatepark was closed, things certainly seemed bleak, especially in the dreary days of winter. But according to Paul Kopera, assistant Parks & Recreation director, things began to look brighter in the summer of 2016. The Board of Supervisors had approved the dismantling of the broken down park, located at 2600 Langhorne/Yardley Road in Langhorne, and received an estimate of what construction would cost for a new one, which turned out to be $200,000.

The board encouraged the skaters to raise half the sum on their own for the future 8,000 square-foot park, and they immediately got to work. So far, they’ve raised about $17,000 in cash thanks to the strong support of family, friends and the local community. For the past several months, Rich Van Horn has been selling rubber wristlets at his Dogwood Skate Shop, located at 111 E. Maple Ave. in Langhorne, for $5 apiece, which has resulted in a steady income toward the cause. These were also sold during National Night Out in August, which saw more than 2,000 guests. T-shirts and stickers are also available at Dogwood.

A team effort: Paula Kearns, executive director of the Middletown Community Foundation, poses with Rich Van Horn (right), owner of Dogwood Skate Shop in Langhorne. PHOTO: Middletown Community Sk8tepark

Though his shop recently opened earlier this year, Van Horn has been a strong advocate for the cause for much longer. He admitted there is still a ways to go, but has high hopes for a spring or summer 2018 completion.

“The kids need it,” he said.

Van Horn’s fiance, Natalie, joined the cause by hosting four free yoga classes during the summer, which added another $400 through suggested donations of $10.

Memorial bricks are being sold for $100 apiece, which will be added to the park once it’s built. The township also applied for a PECO Greenwave Grant of $10,000, which should be either approved or denied by Thanksgiving.

This July, the board approved a $3,000 expenditure for the company 5th Pocket Design, which is leading the initiative of creating detailed building plans of the park. At a public meeting last month held at the park site, skaters and interested locals had a chance to vote on several designs, choosing the one they liked best.

After reaching a consensus, 5th Pocket presented the winning design at last month’s board meeting. When asked if the new park would be similar to the one torn down, Kopera got straight to the point.

“There’s nothing like it,” he stated.

In just two short years, skateboarding has drastically evolved, according to Kopera. What was preferred in 2015 is much different than what skaters are looking for now. The Middletown Community Sk8tepark will be modeled after parks 5th Pocket has previously built throughout Philadelphia. Known as “Pocket Parks,” they range in size from 5,000–10,000 square feet.

Reflecting on his pre-business owning years, Van Horn explained how he used the park constantly in 2000 when it was a basketball court. But once it was converted to a skatepark in 2003, his interest dissolved because of the low-quality construction and parts used to create it. He knew from then that local skaters deserved more.

“This time, we fought for what we want,” he said.

This included an abundance of lights so solo skaters as well as younger ones with parents feel safe and can focus on having fun. It’s this concern for safety that continues to push the skatepark committee forward in its efforts to raise the remainder of the needed funds. Though much of the committee consists of veteran skaters who want their park back, the majority are parents who are tired of taking their children to different neighborhoods.

“It’s parents of new and young skaters that have to take their kids all over instead of down the street,” Kopera said. “The skatepark committee is committed to making sure it gets built sooner rather than later.”

For information on the Middletown Community Sk8tepark, visit facebook.com/middletowncommunitysk8park. To help the cause, visit youcaring.com/middletownskateboarders-882924 or middletowncf.org/donate.php. ••