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Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:03

Skaters Unite: Repairs to East Side Rec's Skate Park Are Ready to Roll

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Local skateboarders struck a big victory late last year when they successfully petitioned the city to unearth the concrete bowl located at the skateboard facilities within East Side Recreation Park. The bowl had been inexplicably filled in with dirt by the city one morning in 2010, and remained that way until it was finally reopened in November 2011. The concrete bowl’s excavation was thanks in large part to Charlie Samuels, a filmmaker and local skateboarder, who took his plight to city officials on numerous occasions to see that the bowl was reopened for the skateboarders in Saratoga Springs.


Along with being the vocal leader of the initiative, Samuels had also pledged to personally take care of the concrete bowl at the skate park, and assist with repairs. That promise was kept in the most literal sense possible, as last week, Samuels rolled up his sleeves and got to work alongside a concrete mason named Charles Austin to restore the bowl to its original condition.

“The main thing we did was replace three eroded concrete coping blocks that wore down from weather and regular wear and tear,” said Samuels. “So we had a mason come in and repair them with some coping blocks from a swimming pool company.”

The replaced coping blocks located above the deepest part of the concrete bowl were almost completely worn down, with the center block resembling a pothole more than the edge of a swimming pool. Samuels and Austin installed the new coping late last week, taking advantage of a colder day that wouldn’t normally bring many people out to the skate park. The finished product is now unveiled, and ready to be used by the city’s skateboarders.

“We are holding up our end of the deal,” said Samuels. “To make the skate park a community gathering place that encourages skateboarding.”

Now that the concrete bowl has been excavated and repaired, Samuels says he’s still working with city officials on different ways they can help the park.  According to Samuels, the skate park is the most popular feature to East Side Recreation Park, and should be maintained as such.

“Every time we go there, there are kids there constantly,” said Samuels. “No other facility has that happening.”

Last week, Samuels and his associate Benj Gleeksman met with Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan in order to discuss upcoming events at the park, as well as what they hope to see done to keep the park looking new. This included talks of a celebratory, non-competitive Skate Jam tentatively scheduled for May, as well as offering free skateboard lessons for children over the summer. Samuels says there has even been a discussion for a skateboard contest that could happen at the end of the summer, but is awaiting further input from city officials before scheduling any more events.

“We’re hoping the city will consider repaving the surface of the park with cement,” said Samuels. "We are hoping our skate park, the first one in New York State, will continue to be the best skateboard tourist attraction in the area for years to come. “

The resources to maintain the appearance of the park, as well as offer future programs at the facility, is the direct result of the fundraising from the On Deck Saratoga art show and silent auction. The event was held at the Spring Street Gallery and bidding concluded March 23. The event saw local artists donate skateboard decks that had been turned into one-of-a-kind pieces of artwork.  Samuels says thousands of dollars were raised at the event, which saw an estimated 400 people attend its gallery opening on March 3. T-shirts designed by Saratoga Springs native Jeremy Fish were available for purchase, and sold out well before the evening concluded.  The gallery is expected to print more shirts for those who were unable to get one of the original prints.

Samuels also recently took the opportunity to screen a trailer to his new film “Virgin Blacktop” at the Spring Street Gallery March 29. The film follows a team of skateboarders from the New York City suburbs in the 1970s. They were known as The Wizards, and the film follows them from their time freestyle skateboarding, to what they’re doing now. Samuels is still working to finish the film but screened the trailer in hopes of gauging the audience’s interests in the project.

“As a filmmaker it’s so important to get feedback, especially when you’re looking to finish and decide which directions to turn and how people react to it,” said Samuels.

Filmmaker Kent Wian also screened a trailer for a documentary he is working on that chronicles the saga of the East Side Recreation Park’s concrete bowl.

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