Lansdowne skate park has rich history, offers sense of community

Quaint brick town houses line both sides of Bero Road in Lansdowne and for all intents and purposes the neighborhood appears no different than any other quiet suburban area.

But just past the last house of the left, a somewhat hidden driveway leads to one of the most famous parks on the East Coast — the Sandy Hills Skatepark.


"It's said to be one of the oldest [skateparks] on the East Coast, if not the United States," said Pay McDougall, planner for the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks.

The park, which opened in 1978, features a massive concrete bowl, now decorated with colorful graffiti left by skaters past and present.


Most modern skate parks feature only metal ramps, which do not allow as much room for experimentation on the board, McDougall said.

"It's just an entirely different style," McDougall said of the concrete bowl. "You're more spread out, you're not within as constricted of an area.

"Sandy Hills is unique in Baltimore County in that it is the only site which offers both [concrete and metal]," he said.

The dual setup at the Lansdowne park has made it a mecca of sorts for skaters around the country and around the world.


Chuck Mitchell, who has worked at the skate park since August 2001, said he has seen "thousands" of skaters come through the park to ride the unique "snake run" through the concrete bowl.

"[From] as far as Russia, England, California," the 61-year-old Baltimore Highlands resident said. "It's pretty famous."

Mitchell said professional skateboarder Bucky Lasek once requested a private session in the park while he was traveling through for the Dew Tour, a nationwide action sports competition.

"This park is so different because it's so board friendly," Mitchell said. "It just has a natural flow to it.

"I don't know much about skating, but that's what they tell me," he said. "Here you can start from the back and everything flows into each other."

Brayden Coleman, 13, and his brother Zackery Coleman, 12, live right up the street from the park and are frequent visitors.

"It's pretty awesome," Brayden said of the park. "I like how high the ramps are and how smooth they are."

He said a friend of his showed him the park a few years back and now he skates there all the time.

"I usually go by myself and they just pop up random times," he said of his friends, who also skateboard.

"I've been doing it [skateboarding] since I was a little kid," he said. "It's very fun and exciting."

Mike Hull drove from Bethesda to experience the park's unique concrete bowl.

"I went online and looked for new spots I haven't been to yet," the 20-year-old said. "Something that's not like everywhere else.

"This big concrete slab isn't like anything I usually go to," he said.

The park isn't just open for skateboarders either.

Holly Baranowski roller skates for the Charm City Roller Girls — an all-female roller derby team in Baltimore City — and has visited Sandy Hills a number of times.

"I started roller derby in 2006 and I think the first time I went to the skate park was in 2007 or 2008," the 31-year-old Arbutus resident said.

She said a number of factors led her to try the park.

"One, it was just open and free," Baranowski said. "Two, concrete parks are a lot easier to skate with roller skates on than other parks.

"Also, it's history, because it's one of the first concrete parks on the East Coast," she said. "One of the original skate parks."

Baranowski said the park offers her an opportunity to experiment with her skates in a way that roller derby doesn't.

"When I go there I just try to skate all different mediums to make myself a well-rounded skater," she said. "I just skate around the park and try to do tricks and try to learn new stuff.

"I've been trying to use my skates in a different way," Baranowski said. "We practice on a flat surface [for roller derby] so it's nice to get outside of your comfort zone."

When the park first opened, skaters could come and go as they pleased with little to no regulation, but now, McDougall said, the county has rules in place to ensure skater safety.

The park is open from 3 p.m. to sunset and either Mitchell or John Peugh, the other park employee, is there every day to supervise skaters, who must sign a waiver and get a membership card during their first trip to the park.

The added rules haven't hindered the atmosphere at the park though, Mitchell said.

"It's like a sanctuary where they [skaters] can come and hang out, do whatever they want, and nobody really bothers them," he said.

Both kids and adults use the park and Mitchell said the feeling of unity bridges all generational, racial and economical gaps.

"Actually I was surprised how much time the older skaters take with the younger kids," Mitchell said. "The thing that amazes me, it [skating] crosses all [societal] bridges.

"It's like a big family, very close knit," he said.