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Skater to help Manchester skate park renaissance

Hidden off Md. 27 at the mouth of the Town of Manchester, set low at the base of a hill and shrouded in trees, was the Manchester skate park. It was a place where a generation of local skateboarders cut their teeth, made friends and came of age. Skaters like Curtis Blank, 21, who now lives in Baltimore but returns on the weekends to skate.

"There are a lot of sentimental memories of that location," Blank said. "Dude, I have been skating Manchester since I was in sixth grade, that's like 10 years you know? There's a lot of people that regularly skate that are attached to the place."

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It's not just sentimental attachment: In 2013, Blank invested around $100 of his own money and hours of labor to install a grind box, a rail and other features in the skate park, as well fix some hazards that had developed on the exiting wood and metal ramps.

"Some of the metal was bent, there were screws sticking out and the transitions were messed up," he said. "I took it upon myself to try to fix some of that."

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Given his investments in sweat, capital and emotion, Blank was initially saddened to learn the skate park had been taken down in the last week of December, the ramps removed and the asphalt pad laid bare.

The skate park is not gone for good however, it's just undergoing a transition, a relocation and a possible face lift, according to Manchester Town Administrator Steve Miller. The rough outlines of a new asphalt pad have already been put down in a new location in the town's Christmas Tree Park, he said, the ramps have been relocated and will be placed on the new pad once its final surface is paved sometime in the early spring.

"Unfortunately, due to the cold weather, we could not put on the final coating of black top. That will be completed in early spring," Miller said. "Then we will revamp the current ramps and will request money in the [FY2017] budget ... for new ramps on the new location."

The original skate park, low lying as it was, had a problem with flooding, Miller said, a issue he believes tended to leave small rocks on the park that became hazards for skaters. The new skate park location will be better suited for skating, while the site of the old skate park's lack of elevation will prove an advantage in its new role.

"The county, the Town of Manchester and [the Maryland State Highway Administration] are going to use the area where the skate park was located for a stormwater management facility," Miller said. "That will take all the drainage from the west side of town, some of [Md. 27], some of [Md. 30] and it will be channeled down to a facility where the skate park set."

Despite having moved to Baltimore, Blank said he hopes to get involved with the reconstruction of the Manchester skate park.

"We're totally all in for helping and giving them any assistance they might need, or any advice," he said. "I feel like if the right measures were taken and they did things the right way, that park could be awesome and a big attraction, and last a long time."

As just one example, Blank said he would like to make sure the ramps are replaced in the new park with care.

"I kind of worry about the distances and stuff," he said. "The way it was set up before, it was perfect for speed and stuff. And if you put the ramps too far or too close, you'll either go too slow or too fast."

The town, Miller said, is eager to work with skaters and will place the ramps where they want them. If money becomes available for new ramps or features in the next fiscal year — Miller emphasized that there is no guarantee — he would like to work with skaters to learn more about what they would want in their skate park.

Blank is excited to be a part of that cooperation.

"I am totally more than willing to give them a hand or help out with the resources I have available," he said. "I'll do whatever it takes man. It's something I've been passionate about for a really long time, and it makes me feel good to be able to have a say in it."

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If you go

What: Manchester Town Council meeting

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12

Where: Manchester Town Hall, 3208 York St., Manchester

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