Deb Abraham Spalding
It was a beautiful day for the grand opening celebration of the new Thurmont Skatepark at the East End Park on East Main Street in Thurmont on Saturday, November 6, 2021. The day started off with the group of project-founding skaters gathering at the skatepark for a sunrise skate session. Their project had become a reality!
They skated for about an hour and a half, then other volunteers joined them to plant 30 trees around the skatepark. Soon, event attendees started filling up the space.
From sunup to sundown, the celebration continued as a solid slate of skaters on skateboards, on scooters, or wearing in-line skates, rolled around the smooth concrete contours of the facility. Paul Zelenka served as the event’s DJ mixing up 5 hours of fun tunes.
This project was initiated by local young residents who were looking for a safe place to skateboard. Sgt. Dave Armstrong, of the Thurmont Police Department, started having conversations with the kids instead of just telling them to stop skating when he saw them around town. He realized they needed a safe place to skate. He went with them to a Parks and Rec Committee meeting and gained roots-level support for a skatepark.
A group of 15 Catoctin High School sophomores attended an April 12, 2021 Town of Thurmont meeting with Patrick Dugan as their leader and presented their case, convincing the town to build a skatepark. Four main skaters spearheaded the project including Dugan, Maceo Zelenka, Alan Chimel, and Norman Montoya, by petitioning for support.
The teens didn’t attend that meeting unprepared. They had done research. They visited other towns with skateparks, and met with other organizers and planners who have designed and built skateparks. A visit with Brent at Embark Skate Shop for advice on building a skatepark led the teens to Joe Wallace who had done fundraising for Urbana Skate Park. He shared the name Matt Arment who built the Urbana Park. Within one day of contacting Arment, he had a skatepark design and a proposal drawn up. That project plan was presented to the town. Everything moved along well.
The mayor and commissioners gave the teens lots of positive feedback, as well as advice on how to help their project move along as quickly as possible. The Thurmont Board applied for, and received, a grant from Program Open Space, a program from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources that provides counties with funds for public space projects.
Embark donated a skateboard for a raffle to raise funds. The teens had formed a committee and they were present at Thurmont’s Farmers Markets selling raffle tickets and t-shirts. This was a great way for the committee to tell people about the park.
The committee met every week. Josh Boyle, an active inline skater, joined the committee and contributed a wonderful point of view. Sgt. Armstrong stayed active with the committee and remained a great advocate.
Maceo Zelenka’s mother Stacie Zelenka and Patrick Dugan’s mother Kirsten Dugan became parent volunteers who helped lead the boys through the logistics of fundraising.
Commissioner Wayne Hooper, served as the liaison between the board and the committee. Matt Arment of Arment Concrete out of Dover, PA, was really close to the kids. He designed and built the park. Sponsorship was incredible! The teens wrote a letter and asked the community and businesses for support.
Stacie Zelenka said, “We said the first five $500 donations would have a banner at the park. Within 24 hours we had all five of them. Ninety percent of the people really supported the project because it was driven by teens. They can make a change!”
At the grand opening celebration, Embark Skate Shop hosted the best trick contest. People got to see pro skaters. Delegate Jesse Pippy did a kick flip to start off the best trick contest. That was cool to see, especially since he actually landed the stunt.
A proclamation was presented by Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird on behalf of the Governor of the State of Maryland to the Thurmont Skatepark Committee.
There are many individuals who deserve credit and acknowledgement for this true example of a “community” project. Harold Lawson, Thurmont’s Superintendent of Public Works and his crew are responsible for everything that makes up the skatepark’s finished look. Lori Kaas with the Town of Thurmont was the committee’s point of contact with the town office. She kept the committee organized and on track.
Jim Humerick, The Town of Thurmont’s CAO included the skateboard committee in the process every step of the way so they learned how government works. Jacob Williams designed the logo which has been a big hit on the hoodies and t-shirts. Mayor John Kinnaird was always supportive of the skatepark and Thurmont youth.
The skatepark isn’t completely finished. Eventually, there will be lights installed. Next spring, paved walking trails will be installed from the inclusive playground and from the Main Street sidewalk.
Stacie Zelenka said, “A lot of individuals donated to the project and realized that by giving kids and teens in the community a safe outdoor space for a sport just makes the community better.”
Kirsten Dugan sums it all up, “In less than seven months, this project went from a proposal by a group of teenagers into a reality. This skatepark is a great asset to our town. People have been out here enjoying the skatepark almost constantly since the concrete dried. To see it completed and to celebrate with the community that has given so much support is really incredible. The whole process has felt like a miracle.”
The official ribbon-cutting was held at the at the grand opening.
Ben Swauger of Waynesboro attended the Thurmont Skatepark Grand Opening on November 13, 2021.
Catoctin ninth-grader Cameron Santmier catches some air on his scooter.