A sweltering heat wave hasn’t stopped a passionate group of volunteers from putting the finishing touches on repairs at the Greenport skate park just in time for the Sound & Skate Festival set for Saturday, Aug. 6.
During weekly ‘work sessions,’ a group of about six people have been meeting up to replace rotting wood, reinforce ramps and replace rusty nails at the facility on Moores Lane, which was built by the Village of Greenport in 1998.
Last week, the group focused its efforts on building frames from plywood donated by Riverhead Building Supply for six-by-eight-foot canvases as part of a live graffiti and mural contest during the festival.
The contest will feature 25 Long Island and New York City-based street, graffiti and mural artists, festival organizer Rena Wilhelm said.
“They’re all extremely talented and all different,” she said. “Graffiti and urban art is all a part of skate culture — and it’s the whole culture we’re trying to showcase.”
The event will also have 100 food, art and craft vendors, plus live skating demonstrations and a competition across disciplines, including roller skating, skateboarding, scooters and BMX.
The East End Music Alliance has also organized a lineup of eight bands during the festival that range from rock and roll, punk and ska to folk music.
“It’s a nice mix for everybody,” Wilhelm said.
Plans for the festival have been in the works for nearly three years. Though Wilhelm herself is not a skater, she was compelled to get involved after seeing a plea from a young skater, Dane Jensen, on social media.
“He was 11 at the time and was very upset at the state of the park. There was graffiti, things were crumbling,” Wilhelm explained. “He asked his mom if she could post some pictures on [a village Facebook group] and that’s when I saw it. I thought, ‘OK. Let’s figure out what we have to do.’”
Wilhelm, a village resident who also owns The Weathered Barn on Front Street, saw Dane’s call to action as a way to bring the community together, from local residents and youth to local businesses and village stakeholders.
One way to do that was by reinvigorating the festival itself, which was inspired by a similar event organized for several years by former North Fork residents and longtime park advocates Mike and Michelle Bendik.
“They’re the ones who basically created the festival,” Wilhelm explained, adding that the skate park committee is exploring ways to honor the couple in future projects.
Though the event faced pandemic-related delays, Wilhelm said that time allowed her to connect with more people to get the project going and officially form Greenport Skate Park Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to restoring the park to its former glory.
“There are people from the early 2000s who are now grown up, in their 40s, and remember the park for what it was,” Wilhelm said.
In addition to being the first municipal skate park on Long Island, Greenport’s facility boasts a 12-foot vert ramp, a rarity, according to skaters.
Wilhelm said it’s important to restore the park both for those who are nostalgic about its heyday but also to support the new generation of kids making memories there.
“It’s something this community desperately needs,” she said. “Especially in light of the pandemic. It’s important for kids to be outside. They need to socialize.”
The project has already gained momentum and Wilhelm hopes it continues.
In May, the group hosted “Decked Out,” a fundraiser that tied in aspects of skate culture to a fashion show at the George D. Costello Sr. Memorial Skating Rink on Third Street that raised about $30,000.
Wilhelm is also hoping to organize another event at the roller skating rink this fall and auction off some of the canvases created during the festival.
Ultimately, the group’s goal is to make improvements to the facility projected at $250,000 — a more feasible option than a total overhaul that could top $1 million.
“We’re making sure we take into consideration [skaters] likes and dislikes,” Wilhelm explained. The iconic ramp will remain, but new features like a skating bowl are also on the table, she said.
The local organization is also set to meet with Tito Porrata of Pivot Custom Skateparks on the design later in August. Porrata, who has been designing and building skate parks since 1995, is also involved in the ongoing renovation and expansion of the Montauk skate park as well as a project in Southampton.
“He offered to come help us develop plans and construction documents so we can figure out how to execute a new design that works with the old fixtures as well,” Wilhelm said.
With just over a week to go, the group continues meeting at the park to ready the grounds. This week, several ramps are slated for a fresh coat of paint Wilhelm said was provided by the village.
“It’s a way of giving back and getting involved in a community that’s really special,” she said.
The Sound & Skate Festival will be held Saturday, Aug. 6 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the skate park on Moores Lane in Greenport. All ages are welcome and you can even bring your dog along! To learn more about the festival and ongoing revitalization initiative, visit greenportskatepark.org or follow them on Instagram @greenportskatepark.