At long last, skate park under way in Philly

A lot of skateboarders thought this would never happen. After more than a decade of planning and fundraising, ground finally has been broken for the future Paine’s Park, Center City Philadelphia’s only skate park.

Nestled between the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the Schuylkill River Trail, the park design had to satisfy a roster of civic functions. It had to serve as a connector to draw foot traffic between the river and the parkway; be a programmable space for public functions; and be attractive to pedestrians and brown-bag lunchers.

“Right behind us will be an overlook point with a trellis,” said architect Anthony Bracali, standing on what is now just a wide patch of grass along the riverbank. “There’s going to be another one up along the road edge there. There’s going to be a stair down from the parkway that will cut across the site along the edge and take you down to the trail.”

Bracali also had to make it attractive to skateboarders. As a nod to Philadelphia’s history as an international mecca for skateboarding, old granite slabs from Dilworth Plaza and Love Park will be repurposed as skatable street furniture.

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The project is funding by $2.5 million from the state and $2 million that has been allocated over the years from the city.

“I think it’s important for us. Particularly in our recreation function, as well as creating wonderful amenities along the parkway,” said Deputy Mayor Mike DeBerardinis, who heads the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

The impetus for Paine’s Park began 12 years ago when City Council took steps to outlaw some forms of skateboarding.

Josh Nims, at the time a law student at Temple and an avid skateboarder, was outraged. He co-founded the Franklin’s Paine Skatepark Fund and began the slow journey to convince City Hall that skateboarding is one of Philadelphia’s valuable assets.

“When you start a process like this — you want to stop anti-skateboarding legislation — the first thing you’ve got to do is educate people to what you believe skateboarding is, versus what they believed it was,” said Nims. “Hopefully, it’s not what they thought it was.

“And when they see how many creative young people are involved, how much of a positive, healthy outlet it is, how much of a cultural outlet it is the for city, they will start to rethink these issues,” he says.

The new skate park is expected to be completed by the spring.

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