Groundbreaking for Phase II of Skatepark welcome payoff for Hampden resident

Baltimore Messenger
Groundbreaking for Phase II of Skatepark welcome payoff for Hampden resident

By the time the Skatepark of Baltimore's Phase II is completed, about $1 million and countless hours of fundraising, lobbying and brainstorming will have gone into the project.

The groundbreaking ceremony was held June 21 at the Roosevelt Park site in Hampden, culminating years of hard work to secure a place for at least a portion of the area's estimated 30,000 skateboarders to congregate and skate.

Phase II, which received $500,000 from the State of Maryland, the City of Baltimore and from other contributors to pay for the project, will fit on the skatepark's original 11,000-square-foot footprint. Its faux "street plaza" concept, featuring ledges, stairs and other aspects of urban landscapes that might be found downtown, will give skaters a challenging course on which to perform a slew of moves.

"I anticipate construction will take at least four months," Murdock said, noting that the completion date is highly dependent on weather conditions for pouring concrete.

The skatepark's more modest first phase, featuring a 5,000-square-foot concrete bowl costing $180,000 was begun in Oct. of 2013 and completed four months later, augmenting a small, city-funded concrete skatepark boasting some makeshift ramps brought by various enthusiasts of the sport situated next to the bowl.

The Abell Foundation, Tony Hawk Foundation, Parks and People Foundation, Clayton Baker Trust and individuals donations — with a matching amount by the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks — funded Phase I, according to Stephanie Murdock, a Hampden resident and president of the non-profit Skatepark of Baltimore.

And that came after nine years of effort from Murdock and some other like-minded volunteers, such as Waverly resident Danny Oliver, 21, and 26-year-old Joe Fitzpatrick, a Skatepark of Baltimore board member who hails from Medfield.

Getting a top-notch facility for skaters was an exercise in perseverance and patience, attributes that helped Murdock negotiate with a variety of bureaucracies and agencies, public and private, to achieve her goal.

For instance, in the last 10 years there have been eight directors of the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks with whom Murdock has worked.

"I always joke that if I can't win them over, at least I can outlast them," she said.

And outlasting critics and other hurdles has marked Murdock's tenacious campaign.

"It has been a long process," said Murdock, 33, now the legislative director for Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke.

Her initial quest to build a skatepark began in 2004 was aided six years later by the Open Society Institute of Baltimore, which made Murdock a Baltimore Community Fellow with a $60,000 grant. The money allowed her to work full-time toward the ultimate goal of making the skatepark a reality.

"My OSI fellowship was a unique opportunity to work while engaging youths in the skatepark development process through afterschool and weekend programs and activities for youth skateboarders," she said. "They learned advocacy skills by being involved in the development of a skatepark in their neighborhood, which kept them engaged and out of trouble."

The Parkville native had originally taken up skateboarding while attending Towson University after graduating from Loch Raven High School.

"Fresh out of college I was skating a lot at Carroll Park in West Baltimore," Murdock said. "Skateboarding was so appealing to me because it was a sport I could do on my own time. You didn't have to be on a team or in a club to play. But there weren't many other places to skate then."

Saying that she had traveled as far away as Australia and Europe to check out skateboarding facilities in other part of the world, Murdock lamented Baltimore's lack of similar venues upon her return to Charm City.

That's when she decided to place an ad in the Baltimore City Paper looking for help in bringing a skate park to Hampden.

It took awhile, but she has received support from government officials Clarke, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore City Council President Bernard "Jack" Young, Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby and Maryland State Senator Catherine Pugh in shepherding the project through.

Clarke, Murdock said, was open to talking about the project from the get-go.

"She was the first council person to give me the time of day," Murdock said. "She was the first one to sit down and listen to us. She's just a great civil servant, and it's really cool for me to now work with someone who I respect so much."

Murdock added that Pugh worked "extensively" on aiding the project.

Working with Murdock and the other volunteers, government officials finally pushed through a project that will serve as many as an estimated 100 youths a day and up to 36,500 a year.

Oliver, who redesigned the Skatepark of Baltimore website and has been assisting Murdock in a variety of roles since he was 13, said what he likes the most about skaters is the camaraderie that exists between them.

"There's no racism here — everybody gets along," said Oliver, who is black. "You have kids from Hunt Valley and Glen Arm skating with kids like me from Waverly and Park Heights. It's a good feeling."

Fitzpatrick, who travels frequently as an examiner for the Maryland Insurance Corporation, said that Baltimore has some catching up to do with other cities regarding skateparks. And that's why, he said, the skatepark addition is good for the city.

"When I travel, I take my skateboard wherever I go," he said. "Skateboards are the golf clubs for millennials."

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