In Boston, spaces are being created for the skater community to practice their sport on. Two of these newest places, the Lynch Family Skate Park and POP Allston, allow Boston skaters to skateboard free of charge, in safe, welcoming environments. These new developments are helping transforming Boston into a destination for skaters around the country.
Next weekend, the Lynch Family Skate Park will open and become the first public skate park in Boston to help accommodate the sport’s growing popularity in the city. It features nearly 40,000 sq. feet of concrete under the overhead ramps that lead from Storrow Drive onto I-90 in Cambridge and the park is designed to reflect some of history and culture of Boston’s skating community.
Skateboarding was born on the West Coast of California in the 1950s when, according to Skateboarding Magazine, surfers created a board out of a wooden board and rollerblade wheels attached underneath. The sport has undergone rises and falls in popularity since, due to various technological improvements and changing perceptions of the sport (see timeline).
The Charles River Conservancy officially got involved with the skate park in 2004 and “we talk about it being a 10-year project, a 15-year project, but you could probably say it’s a 20-year project,” said Theresa Doherty, the CRC Project Coordinator.
The need for the park was realized when Nancy Schön, the sculptor of Make Way of Ducklings in the Boston Public Gardens, saw a group of skaters practicing on her “Tortoise and Hare” sculptures in Copley Square around 1996/1997. She went up to them and said “‘Hey this is my artwork. You might ruin it. Please don’t skate over it,’” said Doherty.
Schön soon “found out that there was no skate park in Boston,” said Doherty. “Skating is illegal in the streets of Boston and in public plazas. It’s just not welcome. So these were athletes just trying to practice their sport and they didn’t have a place to do it.”
Nancy Schön would later meet Renata von Tscharner, the founder and president of the Charles River Conservancy. The two discussed the need for the park and eventually teamed up and began looking for potential sites. “Nancy is still around and is excited to see the park open,” said Doherty.
The Lynch Family Skate Park will officially open on Saturday, November 14th after years of funding and construction. Its opening event will feature several speakers including Vans Vice President, Steve van Doren, the son of the company’s founder, and Peter Lynch of the Lynch Foundation for which the park is named.
“Lynch will be there honoring his wife who just passed away in October of this year,” said Doherty. “And she was really another one of the driving forces. Really passionate about this park and about creating opportunities for kids to have a place to exercise.”
The grand-opening will also include a ribbon cutting ceremony, a DJ, and free hats, stickers, t-shirts, etc. The park will be fully open to the public to skate following the festivities.
The Lynch Family Skate Park will be a big draw for tourism as there have already requests from big companies to hold competitions and other events. Skaters around the country will have more of a reason to visit Boston due to the many potential benefits of the park.
Parks like the Lynch Family Skate Park are helping improve the skating scene in Boston said Erick Pickard, an employee at the popular Orchard Skate Shop on Newbury Street. “It’s getting a lot better. It’s more of a destination these days than it has been in the past.”
While cities like San Francisco, Philadelphia, and New York are well-regarded for their skatebaility, according to a ranking by Transworld Skateboarding, Boston has never really been associated with being skate-friendly due to its strict laws, harsh winters, and lack of any public city skate park.
“Boston is definitely not on the same level as skateboarding as compared to the West Coast, mostly because of the weather since you can’t skate for five or six months due to the cold,” said Ollie Rodgers, a junior at BU, who has been skateboarding since he was very young.
The majority of skateboarders fall into the youth/college age-group, with 80% of skateboarders being under 24 years old according to the Public Skatepark Development Guide. Despite this trend of skaters being young, Boston’s skating community is diverse in age according to Pickard. “We get people of all walks of life. Old, young. We have kids from like six years old to dudes pushing sixty […] in the shop,” he said.
Orchard Skate Shop, which has multiple shops in Boston, also runs the community skate park in POP Allston. The pop-up community space, which opened in September on Brighton Avenue, features a bike shop, a market, and a yoga studio. Its multi-level indoor skate park, which is free for anyone to use, is the most visited feature of the space.
Colorful lights flash throughout the first floor of POP Allston, which is scattered with bikes, old arcade games, and a desk where skaters check-in and sign a waiver. A staircase leads directly into the skate park overhead. The two-level skate space features nearly 10,000 sq. feet and includes many various obstacles and ramps for skaters to practice on.
Spaces like POP Allston and the Lynch Family Skate Park will help create places for skaters to practice the sport and to meet other people with similar interests.
“Being in Boston its kind of hard to skate, outdoors anyways,” Daniel Ridley, a local skater who has been skating since he was seven, said. “You get kicked out of spots, people get in the way. It’s nice to have a little, local spot (POP Allston), especially in the Allston/Brighton area, where people can just come, hang out, skate and enjoy.”
Both the Lynch Family Skate Park and POP Allston are helping transform Boston into a skating city. Competitions and various events will now be more welcome in the city, but most significantly, the youth (under 24 years old) that comprise the majority of the sport’s community, will have places to practice what they love.
“I think its going to be a wonderful amenity for a lot of the inner-city kids that don’t really have a place to try new sports,” said Doherty. “It’s a really inclusive community and it’s a really wonderful opportunity to have a park where kids can grow up learning to skate, have something to do after school, make new friends and be outside exercising.”