It’s so skate forward!
Mark Ward, who was one of three ‘older skaters’ from Hadleigh who led the campaign, decided it was time to action, with the park in a poor state and not necessarily “user friendly” in an environment when falls are commonplace.
“I moved to Hadleigh eight years ago, and the park was in a really bad state but the park was always busy,” he said.
“The main issue was the floor, if you fell off it hurt, so we approached the council and they agreed to help if we set up a group to carry out the fundraising.”
Mr Ward said this had been attempted many times before but he and others were determined to give the town a suitable and safe skatepark.
Alongside Mr Ward, Gavin Talbot and Phil McCormack, with support from others, helped find the funding to pay for the park in their bid to leave a legacy for the Hadleigh community.
In total around £120,000 was raised.
A large amount of the funding came from the Armed Forces Community Covenant scheme, which provided £20,000, while landfill and disposal company Viridor also donated £50,000 to the cause.
Further support came from Hadleigh Thrift shop, Skate Pool, Wahoo clothing retailers in Ipswich, Hadleigh Town Council and a number of other groups and organisations.
As well as financial backers, the trio set about organising fundraising events in the town.
A skatepark day in June 2014 was described by Mr Ward as an “incredible success”.
Local skaters donated old skateboards that were sold on the day and Caveman Catering donated a percentage of their profits from the day.
With the money raised the group could finally decide on a skatepark, making sure it was the correct design for a variety of users, from skateboards to scooters.
“We tendered to many companies and eventually went with Freestyle Skateparks,” said Mr Ward. “After a few months of the design process we ended up with the skaters spray painting the design onto the existing park to make sure the flow was correct for both older and younger children.”
The design was produced in such a way that the park could be used by all ages, so all ramps were kept at 3.5ft high for safety.
More than just a social activity, Mr Ward says skateboarding and scootering teaches respect and politeness.
“Most people think of kidss causing noise jumping off street curbs and generally being a pain,” he said. “This is not the case, it has structure, rules and skatepark etiquette.
“This is truly refreshing to see in this day and age. If a child falls off, someone will always pick them up. If someone’s board rolls aways someone will stop it and roll it back with a smile.
“If kids are whizzing about they are given space. And within the parks, if litter is dropped they are asked to pick it up as it is their domain.
“Have you ever been near a skate park and heard the boarders tapping the boards on the floor? This is the congratulations given by skaters if they do something they have been trying to master or a younger child has ridden unaided for the first time, all positive encouragement. This rule applied in all parks and it doesn’t matter if you have never met the person it still happens.
“Skating is amazing, so many adults say ‘I wish I could try that’, well you can, it’s easy and it cheap and fun.
“Most people won’t as it’s not really the done thing, but in actual fact skating helps build all the core muscles.”
Despite being keen skateboarders themselves the trio realise this is about much more than a personal interest.
“The skatepark project was to give something back to the kids,” said Mr Ward. “They don’t want to be hanging around street corners or car parks, they want somewhere to meet, now they have this.
“In the summer every day as soon as school’s out, it will be packed, once 6pm comes the older kids come in for the session from 6pm until it gets dark.
“With so many competitive sports and computer games it great that Hadleigh has followed suit of other areas and invested in a new park.”
Mr Ward said that without the support of the major backers, as well as smaller local organisations and charities the project simply wouldn’t have been possible, adding equally as important was the support of local residents and from the town, district and county council.
“We already have plans to apply for lighting and the design is done in such a way that it can be extended in the future,” said Mr Ward.
“I am sure there are lots of people that haven’t been mentioned who helped, but it’s just been an amazing effort and we hope it shows the next generation of children that if you try you can succeed.”