Skateboarders jump for joy as ground is broken for park

Skateboarding enthusiast Stephanie Murdock was 21 when she placed an ad in the Baltimore City Paper in 2004, looking for help in bringing a skate park to Hampden.

"This is going to be easy," she thought.

Nine years of hard work later, Murdock, now an aide to Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, basked in accolades from a large crowd of skateboarders, parents and city officials — some of whom she said doubted she would succeed — at a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday, Oct. 1, behind Roosevelt Park, where a 5,000-square-foot concrete bowl for skateboarding was scheduled to be built starting the next day.

Then, Murdock climbed into the seat of a Bobcat on the grassy site at 1221 W. 36th St. and dug up ceremonial dirt like a seasoned construction worker.

"I practiced," she said.

The $180,000 bowl, to be constructed by North Carolina-based Artisan Skateparks, is funded with $90,000 each from the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, and Murdock's nonprofit group The Skatepark of Baltimore Inc.

Murdock presented recreation officials with a check for $90,000 in matching grant money earlier this month to start construction. The Skatepark of Baltimore will continue to raise money for the second phase of the skate park, a planned "street plaza" that would mimic ledges, stairs and other aspects of urban landscapes that one might see in downtown Baltimore, she said.

Murdock already has $150,000 promised for the plaza, half of it in state funding obtained with the help of state Del. Barbara Robinson, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. But Murdock said she can only do one phase at a time, partly because of stormwater management constraints, meaning that the plaza probably wouldn't be built until 2015.

Murdock estimates that once the park is completed, it will serve as many as 100 youths a day and up to 36,500 a year.

The money for the matching grant was raised through a combination of public and private contributions, including a $25,000 grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation, which gave its maximum contribution of $25,000.

"Tony Hawk believes in us," Murdock told the crowd.

Other contributors included the Knott Foundation, the Hampden Community Council, the Hampden Village Merchants Association and Murdock's family, she said.

Several of her family members were on hand for the ceremony, as were Robinson; Clarke; City Councilman Nick Mosby; Kevin Cleary, the city's deputy director of neighborhoods; and Bob Wall, acting chief of the city's Bureau of Recreation. Wall, 56, told the crowd, which also included numerous children and youths, that he was the father of a former skateboarder.

"Stephanie, this is your day," Wall said. "You are being rewarded for long tenacity."

A small, city-funded concrete skate park already exists in a fenced area next to the site of the bowl, with some ramps that various skateboarders brought. Before the ceremony, that area was filled with skateboarders practicing their jumps and other tricks.

Several skateboarders who began volunteering for Murdock's group as teenagers and are now young adults presented her with flowers and a gift certificate to Union Skate Shop in Hampden.

Even the makeshift current skate park is welcomed, said Joe Poole, 22, who is descended from Robert Poole, owner of the Poole and Hunt Foundry in the 1800s, who helped build up Hampden and founded its library branch.

"The Hampden skate park is my home," said Joe Poole, a Towson University graduate with a degree in electronic media and film who is now interning at Renegade Productions in Hunt Valley.

"This is only the beginning, folks," Murdock told the crowd. "I can't wait to see people blasting out of the bowl."

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