Plans to build a skate park in West Baltimore’s predominantly Black Easterwood neighborhood have been halted in favor of upgrading basketball courts and walking paths.
Proponents of the skate park gathered Monday afternoon in front of City Hall to protest and demand information about the project’s future.
Easterwood Park currently has two basketball courts, one of which would have been replaced by the 9,000-square-foot skate park, said Stephanie Murdock, president and founder of Skatepark of Baltimore, a nonprofit volunteer group. A replacement basketball court was part of the plan.
The project was started by Marvin L. “Doc” Cheatham, a West Baltimore activist who was running at the time for the House of Delegates. Cheatham lost to Del. Frank M. Conaway Jr. in the primary in 2014.
Murdock was brought on later by Cheatham in 2018 to help lead the project. Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks later partnered with Murdock and Cheatham, with plans to start construction by this year.
In addition to the Hampden and Carroll Park skate parks, a new one opened earlier this year in the Inner Harbor, and there’s a small skate plaza in Curtis Bay.
Residents of Easterwood identified other priorities for their neighborhood, said Reginald Moore, Baltimore’s recreation and parks director, including expanding walking paths, outdoor fitness equipment and resurfaced basketball courts.
The news about the skate park not being built was announced during a June 23 virtual meeting, according to state Sen. Antonio Hayes. The news also was discussed at a July 12 meeting held by the parks department, said Whitney Brown, a spokesperson for the department.
Hayes said he’s not against the skate park; however, community members told him Easterwood Park must be repaired first.
Hayes said Cheatham and Murdock were invited to two meetings where the new plans, including scrapping the skate park, were discussed. Cheatham sent representatives to the first meeting and attended the second one, Hayes said.
He said Murdock skipped both meetings, but she said she arrived at the July 12 meeting after he left.
Cheatham said he didn’t attend the first meeting or send representatives. He acknowledged that he forwarded the June 23 email invitation to more than 140 people. However, the meeting notice didn’t mention the skate park, just that it was about Easterwood Park, he said.
It wasn’t until the July 12 meeting that Cheatham and Murdock learned the skate park was not being built, they said.
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Murdock, who lives in Hampden, said the decision is not fair to the Easterwood community.
Shelia Davis, president of Ash-Co-East/ Coppin Heights Neighborhood Association, which also represents Easterwood, said while she’s not against the construction of a skate park in Easterwood Park the park must be fixed first.
“That’s what I propose, and that’s what I have heard from my residents,” said Davis, who lives in the area and frequents the park.
Joel Gamble, a former NFL player who grew up in Easterwood, said that while he is not against the skate park, he is concerned about who will oversee it or teach the children how to skateboard.
Murdock disagreed, saying that all of Baltimore’s outdoor amenities — aside from swimming pools — are unsupervised.
“We have done numerous outreach events to introduce youth in West Baltimore to the sport of skateboarding and bike riding,” she said.