Greenport has been home to a vibrant skateboarding scene and one of Long Island’s most exciting skate parks since it was built in 1998, but over the ensuing decades, that park slowly decayed and fell into a deep state of disrepair.
The 20,000-square-foot playground for various wheeled sports — including skateboards, scooters, BMX bikes, inline skates (aka rollerblades) and the like — has the largest vert ramp (halfpipe) on Long Island, along with a variety of funboxes, quarter pipes, rails and other elements. But it became rife with loose nails, rotten boards, cracked concrete, graffiti and trash.
Though repair efforts were mounted, nothing ever really gathered the momentum needed to see things through, and the Greenport Skate Park’s future seemed bleak.
However, all that is now changing thanks to a diverse group of residents who launched the Greenport Skate Park Revitalization Project via Greenport Skate Park Inc., a not-for-profit committee focused on making the park better than ever, while also using it as a place to foster positivity, growth and socialization for local kids.
As part of that effort, which is raising money to make the necessary repairs and renovations, the Greenport Skate Park is hosting the Greenport Sound & Skate Festival, a special fundraising event featuring live music from eight to nine bands, a graffiti and mural contest with great artists and cash prizes, skateboarding competitions, vendors and more at the park (170 Moores Lane) on Saturday, August 6 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Rena Wilhelm Discusses the Greenport Skate Park Project
Chair of Greenport Skate Park Inc. Rena Wilhelm, a local business owner who runs The Weathered Barn boutique on Front Street, explains that the project took shape a few years ago after an 11-year-old local boy, Dane Jensen, asked his mother to share pictures of the ravaged park on social media.
“We have a Facebook page called ‘Let’s Talk Village of Greenport,’” Wilhelm says, describing the moment she saw the photos and found herself compelled to take up the cause.
“There was some unfortunate graffiti that happened and there were just some fixtures of cement that were crumbling, and this kid was like, ‘What can we do?’ and reached out for help,” she recalls.
“I saw the post and my heart kind of broke, and I’m one of those people who’s like, ‘OK, what do we have to do? Let’s get it done,’ without even any thought that I would eventually become the chairperson of this project.”
Wilhelm, who is not a skater and does not have children, says she reached out to other likeminded locals, formed a committee and started trying to help by resurrecting a long-defunct festival at the skate park in 2019. But just as things got rolling, COVID hit and derailed their work.
“In a way, it was a blessing in disguise because I ended up meeting some other people who were instrumental in wanting to help, and it gave us that time to sort of get all our ducks in a row,” she says. “We also got our approval (to create) a not-for-profit entity.”
Now, after three years, the Sound & Skate Festival is back on, bigger and better funded than before.
In addition to planning the festival, the committee and numerous volunteers have been gathering for weekly Wednesday evening “Work Sessions,” replacing rotten bits, board by board, adding metal sheaths and ripping out old, rusty screws in order to replace them with all-weather, galvanized nails.
“We did that as a committee, we just did that on our own,” Wilhelm says, pointing out that their work, including repainting and general cleanup, has done much to improve the park already, but so much more needs to be done.
“It’s really the south side of the park that we’re concentrating on, because the north side is the one that has the vert ramp,” she adds, noting that area skaters remain quite protective of the 40-foot-wide by 12-foot-high ramp, which is rare to see at a municipal skate park.
“We’re taking into consideration all the people who skate there and what they like about the park, what they don’t. The vert ramp is one of those things, it’s a colossal skating accessory, for lack of a better word, that people do not want to get rid of,” Wilhelm says. “So it was important we restructured that and got underneath it, and made sure all the supports were reinforced.”
Greenport Skate Park Revitalization Goals
To completely raze the park and rebuild it from scratch would cost about $1 million, Wilhelm says, but by simply repairing and improving what’s already there, and fully redoing only the south side, the cost ends up closer to $250,000. “It’s not a major overhaul, it just needs some tweaking, and it would make a big difference,” she adds.
The Sound & Skate Festival could do much to raise funds, but to put on the event, Wilhelm says they needed money to make money. Over Memorial Day weekend of this year, the committee held a “Decked Out” event, which had sponsors, as well as a fashion show and a benefit auction featuring skateboard decks repainted by 30 local artists.
That event raised about $30,000, and the committee used the money for festival expenses, such as getting sound system from Hampton Sound for the upcoming festival.
Wilhelm has also been in talks with The Skatepark Project (formerly the Tony Hawk Foundation), which will be offering grants for skate parks in 2023. She notes that the foundation tends to look more favorably upon projects that have already raised 30% of their goal.
“So that’s sort of our immediate goal … even if we get to like $100,000, then at least we can go back to (Tony Hawk’s foundation) the Skatepark Project and say, ‘Look, we’ve got this community invested in making this a better place. Then they’re more likely to help you,” she says.
Community & Positivity at Greenport Skate Park
More than just fundraising, Wilhelm hopes the Greenport community will come to the festival and see that the skate park is a place of great positivity for local kids and adults alike. “…a lot of times people associate skate parks with seedy behavior, and it’s not that at all,” she says.
“First of all, skateboarding is a gigantic industry, and not only from an entrepreneurial side of business and design, and athleticism — there’s music influence, there’s fashion influence. So as part of the non-profit, those are also things that we are focused on, helping these kids navigate into different areas if they want to,” she continues.
“I’ve never in my life seen another group of kids/adults who welcome every single person into their circle. It’s not like an us vs. them, or beginners vs. advanced, or elders vs. kids — if someone wants to learn, you’ve got that whole group behind you clapping and cheering you on. It’s awesome to watch,” Wilhelm says, acknowledging this unique subculture without gatekeepers.
“This generation of kids is just cheering other people on instead of being cliquey. And the whole female aspect of it, too. Seeing young girls getting out there, young-young with their little helmets on and gear, and trying some of these tricks, it’s awesome to see,” she adds.
“It’s such a diverse sport/activity that people need to rally around instead of making assumptions that it’s about something other than all the good parts.”