ANews Contributing Editor
A new skate-for-all feature at Athens Skate Park is the result of multiple community efforts.
It all started in the fall of 2021 when a group of skating enthusiasts and community promoters came together with a fundraising goal in mind.
Andrea Baird and Emmett Mascha were two of the organizers of Skate Jam, a skate competition and music event that hosted events for two community programs.
Mascha is a long time skater who uses the skate park and has seen the deterioration there and the need for features for beginner skaters to use.
He came up with the idea of having a fundraising event at the skate park where bands like his could play while skate competitions were held at the park.
He’s partnered with Andrea Baird and Sojourner’s Care Network, the organization that runs the Resiliency Center and, among other things, provides programs for local youth they might not otherwise have access to. Many of these kids also use the skate park.
“I work full time for Sojourners so that the at-risk youth we serve in Athens and Southeast Ohio somehow find their safe place in the skate parks, that’s where we saw the value and the importance of maintaining our park,” Baird said.
That’s when Baird and Mascha decided to start Skate Jam to raise money for the skate park and Sojourners while creating a fun event for the community.
“It seemed like an obvious marriage with young people using the skate park which is one of the most used parks in all of Athens County and mostly by young people,” Mascha said. “To take something like Skate Jam, an event we did to fix the park, we thought partnering with a nonprofit Sojourners was the perfect nonprofit, someone who just works to help at-risk youth.
The inaugural Skate Jam held in October 2021 featured a series of skateboarding competitions as well as bands performing throughout the day. There were also beer and food vendors on site.
A total of $11,000 was raised through entries, merchandise sales and vendor money. After covering the costs, there was $6,400 split equally between Sojourners and the skate park fund.
A small event was held at Devil’s Kettle Brewery in April where an additional $4,200 was raised and split between the two organizations. The goal was to reach the $5,000 skate park total needed to build the new feature for novice skaters.
Earlier this month, the park was closed for a while while the new feature was built and installed. The majority of the work consisted of updating and improving the existing park, including cleaning and repairing the concrete in the park.
According to local skate enthusiast and skate shop owner Moss Miller, work on the updates is pretty much complete. All that needs to be finished is a sealer on the addition.
The updates to the existing park were covered by $10,000 from the City of Athens through the Athens Department of Arts, Parks and Recreation and its director, Katherine Ann Johnson.
Johnson worked with Zach Powell of Ridge Runner Custom Construction on the concrete repairs as well as adding the new skate feature. Powell donated some of his labor and that of his crew. There were also many volunteers who helped with the project which included cleaning up broken concrete and removing graffiti from the park.
Baird said one of the goals of Skate Jam is to raise awareness of the needs of the skate park and help the city recognize the needs there and hopefully scale up.
She and Mascha said they were excited about Johnson’s involvement and were focused on the park.
Baird even recently sat down with Johnson to fill out grant applications, including one from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which could bring up to $50,000 to the city and the skate park.
Skate Jam 2022 is already scheduled for August 27 and will feature the same setup with more groups and competitions for roller skaters as well.
There have already been donations from local businesses for the upcoming event and Mascha said he has regular conversations about it with skaters.
“I spend a lot of time at Athens Park and I hear people talking about Skate Jam and the stuff they learned last year at Skate Jam. I’m going to come up and say, ‘It’s happening again. Skate Jam 2 will take place in August.
Mascha said he thinks Skate Jam sparks enthusiasm for skating among young people and novice skaters who may have already seen the skate park as stagnant and aging before Skate Jam.
With the city already looking for more funding sources for the park, Baird and Mascha said they want to take Skate Jam on the road.
“We would like to take the Skate Jam model and move to another city that could use some help with their park and find adjacent nonprofits that need help,” Baird said.
As someone who has visited parks across the Midwest, Mascha said he knows there is a need for fundraising efforts and skate park improvements in dozens of communities. And he knows how important places like Athens Skate Park are to people.
“There’s a big group of people who use the skate park frequently and alongside that there’s a big group of people who like to watch the skate,” he said. “I mean it’s even at the Olympics. It is becoming more and more popular.