Shredding it up at Greenwich skate park this summer

Greenwich resident Martin Curley gets some air during a run at the town’s skate park. — Henry Cobbs photo

Greenwich resident Martin Curley gets some air during a run at the town’s skate park. — Henry Cobbs photo

One half pipe. Five quarter pipes. Six banks. And one launch ramp. It’s 6 p.m. on a Monday and three young boys, adorned in full body pads, are cruising up and down the maze of black wooden ramps.

Since 2003, the Town of Greenwich Skate Park, located in Roger Sherman Baldwin Park, has provided a world-class skateboard facility to the town’s youth.

“Back in 2003, skate parks were a relatively new concept for the Northeast,” explains Frank Gabriele, recreation supervisor for the Town of Greenwich. “There were a lot of people that thought it was going to be unsafe. But, the situation was more unsafe back then because the kids were riding in parking lots and public streets. Everyone came to the conclusion that if they were going to be skating, it might as well be in a supervised park.”

“People always say skateboarding is a risky sport,” said Martin Blanco, the park’s director. “In my opinion, any sport can be risky. Skateboarding is no more dangerous than any other sport. Some years, we go five months without a single break. This year, we’ve had just one break since opening in March.”

The facility requires that skaters wear elbow pads, kneepads, wrist guards, and helmets. Town employees, trained in CPR and first aid, supervise all activity whenever the park is open.

Today, the park is open for free skating and also provides various clinics throughout the day. Morning classes or “ramp camps” run from 9  until noon for kids ages six through 14. Evening classes, tailored towards beginners, run from 6:30 to 7:30.

“Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced skater, you can find a clinic of ours that suits your level,” said Blanco. “We strive to make everyone feel comfortable.”

Information about the various clinics can be found on the town’s website,

“Some kids are naturals. They can be taught something one time and be left free to do other things. If they get stuck on a new trick, an instructor will go and help them. But, they are incredibly capable and talented.

On an average weekday, anywhere from seven to fourteen skaters visit the park. Weekends see increased usage of around 20 skaters per day.

“It was very popular when we first opened,” said Gabriele. “Since the park opened in 2003, attendance has dropped. There aren’t as many kids learning to skate on ramps these days-more kids are longboarding and such. It was a fad, of sorts. But, there is definitely still a group of kids every year that are using our facility.”

In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, teens across the nation turned to skateboarding in masses, many intrigued by its rebellious nature. However, those same people who skated out of rebellion over a decade ago are now parents. Ironically, today Blanco finds that some of the kids at the park are pushed into skateboarding by their parents and see it as yet another chore.

“If you are here because you want to be here, you are going to excel. But, you can tell when the kid is here just because his or her parent wants that,” remarked Blanco.

The park employs seven instructors, including three counselors in training.

“My staff this year is one of the best I have ever had,” praised Blanco. “They go above and beyond.”
Over the years, the town has made a habit of hiring promising skaters to mentor younger skaters as counselors in training.

“The CIT program instills responsibility and pride in young kids. It really promotes a strong skating community in town,” said Blanco.

One of the biggest problems for the park continues to be awareness.

“A lot of people don’t know this park even exists. Most people bump into us by accident or spot us from the highway,” Blanco said. Although Frank Gabrielle goes 100% out of his way to promote this facility, it doesn’t get to everyone.”

In hopes of attracting greater interest, the town even provides scholarships to make the sport more affordable.

“Some people are under the impression that these kids are troublemakers,” Gabriele said. “They’re not. You’ve got to give them a chance. Our park is a great environment for youth.”

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