An avid skateboarder as a teen, Matthew Freyer returned to the sport at 39 for a more active lifestyle, frequenting the Manchester skate park to practice his reemerged hobby.
Quickly the Westminster resident discovered the dilapidated conditions at the park — screws sticking out and deteriorated metal and wood making the quarter pipes and ramps unsafe for skaters. Wanting to improve the park for the community, Freyer founded the Manchester Skatepark project with a few other skateboarding enthusiasts in 2018.
Through fundraising events and local volunteers, the group completed the renovated skatepark within a year. But Freyer, now 44, decided to continue his efforts by starting Citadel Skateboarding Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on community engagement and mentorship through skateboarding.
“The goal is to just get kids living, active, healthy lifestyles, get them off the couch, get them to stop eating Funyuns and get out there and do something,” Freyer said.
Citadel hosted the third annual Bomb the Hill skate event last Sunday, where skateboarders rolled down a closed Main Street in Westminster. The event also featured a skate jam and best trick contest at Westminster Skatepark.
“I grew up in Westminster, and I’ve honestly been arrested for skateboarding in Westminster, so to be able to do something like this was insanely special to me,” Freyer said.
The foundation started a skate camp for interested young skaters in 2019 at the Manchester Park, but stopped in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. For two weeks in August, Freyer will host skate trip sessions, where he takes a small group of skaters to parks and DIY skate spots in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Citadel also organizes after school skate sessions during the school year.
Freyer hopes that these community events show that skateboarding is a worthwhile activity for kids, in an effort to steer away from the rebellious face of the sport.
“I think it’s important for the community to see that we’re not just troublemakers,” Freyer said. “We’re doing things that are good for the community and that bring people out. And we just want people to see that we’re about fun and learning and growing.”
Freyer recruits local skaters to help run different Citadel events to encourage bonding within the skate community.
“There are older kids who help out who have been skating for a while and they’re really recognized in the community,” Freyer said. “I like the younger kids to help me out as well. I think that it resonates with younger kids when they work with each other.”
Braiden Bosley, 14, met Freyer at the Manchester skatepark four years ago. He used to only ride scooters, but Freyer convinced him to hop on a board.
“Matt has taught me almost everything. He’s been a big influence on me,” Bosley said. “I try and help out with whatever I can if it’s skate camp or skate trips. Really, whatever he needs me to do. I try and get it done for him.”
The organization also wants to continue renovating old skateparks and plans to hire an architecture firm to build a concrete skatepark in Hanover.
While Freyer can’t perform the same tricks he used to as a teen, he finds his passion in mentoring young skaters.
“I‘ll never be able to do the things I could when I was a kid. If I can just be out here pushing and helping other kids push themselves to get better, that’s what it’s all about,” Freyer said.