City receives preliminary skatepark designs

Jenkins: ‘I want it in two years. I think we can do it in a year.’
City engineer: Jaycee Field a ‘viable site’

* Cumberland Skatepark FB page
* Video: Doug and Cheyenne talk about the skatepark
* AlleganyPlayground.com FB page

By Kevin Spradlin
AlleganyPlayground.com

CUMBERLAND — Members of the Cumberland Skatepark committee received a Christmas present a few weeks early this year.

Late last week, a California-based skatepark design firm sent to Cumberland a preliminary design that showed what a 10,000-square-foot concrete skatepark could look like if placed at Jaycee Field, a city-owned recreation area formerly known as old Pogey Field located on Furnace Street.

Kevin Spradlin | AlleganyPlayground.com
Doug Widdows, left, and Cheyenne Jenkins are spearheading the latest effort to build a skatepark in Cumberland.

The park would be accessible to BMX bike riders, skateboarders, roller skaters, rollerbladers, wheelchairs and other adaptive wheeled-sport enthusiasts. There would be no entry fee for daily admission.

Spohn Ranch Skateparks, of Los Angeles, is not yet under contract with the city of Cumberland but is providing early assistance to an eager group of advocates aiming to build an “all wheels” skatepark.

The three images put the committee, an offshoot of the Cumberland Parks and Recreation Department, one step closer to breaking ground on the project. The concept designs show a 7,000-square-foot street plaza and a 3,000-square-foot pump track. Street plazas aim to recreate an urban area by including stairs, railings, planters and benches. A pump track is “a closed (looping) road track composedof bumps, berms and banked corners with varying frequency,” according to RidingBoards.com. “The successive berms and turns help you keep momentum and speed through pumping on your skateboard or longboard without having to kick push.”

The concept design also shows a third key feature, a bowl, that is primarily for “transition tricks” for more experienced athletes. It is uncertain if the bowl will remain a part of the final design.

There have been numerous efforts in previous years, but Cheyenne Jenkins believes this time is different.

This and two other images show a concept of a 10,000-square-foot skatepark overlaid at Jaycee Field. The tentative plan would be to build over the baseball field, leaving the playground and basketball courts.

“I want it in two years,” said Jenkins, 28, a Cumberland resident and a native of Georges Creek near Lonaconing and Barton. “I think we can do it in a year if the city works with us. I say by Fall of next year we could have it if the city works with us. I’m confident we have the community support to raise the funds that we need. We could easily have this within a year.”

Jenkins and Doug Widdows, a 27-year-old Cumberland resident and BMX professional, sat down with AlleganyPlayground.com for an hour Monday afternoon. Sitting at Jaycee Field under a gray sky and withstanding a few rain drops, Jenkins and Widdows talked about the Cumberland Skatepark project.

Jenkins said she believes three very important things are different this time around compared to the previous efforts of others to build a skatepark. First, Jenkins said, is the group that is spearheading the project this time is more organized; Second, the city of Cumberland has had changes in leadership to improve relations; Third, local businesses seem, now more than ever, on board and supportive of a skatepark.

This second image from Spohn Ranch Skateparks shows how the tree sanctuary and other elements of Jaycee Field would remain intact.

The group also has received a big boost from Allegany County government, which has pledged $250,000 to the project. The skatepark would cost an estimated $450,000 for a 10,000-square-foot facility. That does not include engineering, design or permitting fees, raising the overall project cost to approximately $525,000.

Jenkins said she believes the city of Cumberland, which has received roughly $20 million in CARES Act funding for COVID-related economic relief, could pledge a share up to the balance. Even if the city doesn’t come through financially, she said, the project will continue.

“We could downsize a little bit,”  Jenkins said, “but if we don’t have to, I don’t want to. My personal opinion is, if the county can do a city-backed project and provide us $250,000 of COVID relief funds, I feel like the city should be able to match that, especially when they were given more funds than the county. Or at least half. Or a decent chunk. We will figure out a way to cover the rest.”

This third image from Spohn Ranch Skateparks shows all three major elements for the proposed skatepark including the street plaza, the pump track and bowl.

Site selection

Jaycee Field is not a perfect location.

The top factor in selecting a great skatepark site, according to the Spohn Ranch Skateparks website, is visibility. The website tutors advocates that the site should be easy for both law enforcement and parents to patrol and check-in on the skatepark. Additionally, the site should be surrounded by “other active areas, giving wannabe hooligans the sense that eyes could be on them at any given time.”

Jaycee Field, located at 539 Furnace St., does not exactly meet that specification. Unlike the model skatepark on the design firm’s website that is across the street from a shopping center, Jaycee Field is isolated on the valley floor between Furnace and Valley streets. The site’s closest neighbors included a handful of houses and a cemetery.

Jenkins and Widdows acknowledge the site is less than ideal, but it’s the best they have to work with at the moment.

This Google Maps image shows the location of Jaycee Field in proximity to its surroundings.

“We wanted this downtown, for the record,” Jenkins laughed.

Jenkins and Widdows explained that other sites, such as Canal Place, Mason Sports Complex and Constitution Park, were eliminated from consideration for a variety of factors. That leaves Jaycee Field as the top spot, at least for the moment.

Other than foot traffic of other patrons of the park, there would not be any proactive measures to safeguard the park. However, the Western Maryland Jaycees organization, which has adopted the recreation area, plans to put up security cameras whether or not a skatepark is built there, Jenkins said.

But the site’s isolation is not the only problem.

Robert Smith, director of engineer for the city of Cumberland, said that Jaycee Field is a “viable” site but that other agencies, such as the Maryland Department of the Environment and possibly the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers might need to weigh in.

Kevin Spradlin | AlleganyPlayground.com
The entrance to Jaycee Field on Furnace Street.

The recreation area, which currently includes a baseball/softball field, a playground, two basketball courts, and a multi-purpose building with bathrooms and a concession stand, is situated in a 100-year floodplain. In addition, part of the proposed skatepark is covered by a 100-year floodway, “where the rapid flow from such an event travels,” Smith wrote to AlleganyPlayground.com in an email. “While the site is viable, construction would be contingent on satisfying one or both of these entities and receiving a Waterway Construction permit for approval to proceed.”

Smith emphasized that Mayor Ray Morriss and the City Council have not designated an official place for a proposed skatepark.

Early rave reviews

Despite some issues still to be worked out — funding and permitting included — the concept designs from California received rave reviews from skatepark enthusiasts on the Cumberland Skatepark Facebook page. The images, posted Dec. 3, have been shared 140 times and garnered more than two dozen comments.

It seems that people are ready for a skatepark in Cumberland.

“The bowl looks killer,” wrote Chris Lauer. “Looks like it has a deep end and shallow end. The whole thing is amazing really.”

“This will be great for the kids,” wrote Holly Dawson. “Our son scooters and this will be great. We won’t have to go to Altoona (Pa.) or Morgantown (W.Va.) since we will have one here.”

Staying local was a common theme in the comments section.

“Yay,” exclaimed John Raucci. “My kids (7 and 9) and I will no longer have to travel all the way to Morgantown to go to the nearest skatepark! They are so excited!”

Jamie Atkinson wrote that it’s “about time to give kids something besides football, soccer (and) basketball. “Skateboarding was the best time in my life. Still got a board 35 years later.”

Kevin Spradlin | AlleganyPlayground.com
If built at Jaycee Field, the Cumberland Skatepark would be built over most of the existing baseball/softball infield area, including the dugouts, but leave much of the outfield and would not impact the trees planted eight years ago.

At least one person, however, noted the site location.

“It feels far away from everything,” Madeline Wilburn shared.

Jenkins posted her response, noting that “it’s a five-minute skate and a 10-minute walk from Corner Tavern, (and) a 20-minute walk and shorter skate from Dig Deep (Brewery) and the downtown area where all the local businesses that support the skate community area. It’s also a short drive to all of the local favorites.”

Further, Jenkins wrote, “there are sidewalks to provide safe accessibility and it favors all of North End and half of West Side. Constitution Park and Masons Sports Compex is just as far. They serve no local businesses and are not skateable/walkable and are not safe. They favor one side of town. Cumberland is zoned so poorly and we have limited city-owned property to choose from.”

The site is, Jenkins said after weighing all the factors, “the best we can do.”

Team vs. solo athletics

Widdows said he was playing football at Mason Sports Complex when he was about 10 years old when he looked over and noticed BMX bike riders having fun. A lot more fun than he was having by playing football.

“Heck, that looks cool,” he recalled thinking at the time.

Widdows told his uncle, who was also a football coach, that “I didn’t really wanna play football anymore.”

“I tried skateboarding once,” Widdows said, but “I couldn’t balance on a skateboard to save my life.”

Two wheels seemed to be his thing. Widdows started riding BMX the same week he quit football, and began racing soon after that. His talent has taken him to competitions around the globe — South Africa, Denmark, Puerto Rico, Norway — and “just about every state” in the union, Widdows said.

“Not everybody likes team sports,” Widdows said, in part because “a lot of kids sit on the bench and don’t actually play, which is kind of very unfair.”

Playing an individual sport grants an athlete more playing time by default.

Widdows also mentioned the numbers. Nearly two dozen kids showed up for a skateboarding clinic hosted by local outfitter WheelzUp Outdoors in downtown Cumberland. Between 60 and 90 riders regularly show up at the BMX track during the season — fewer than the number of student-athletes on either Class 1A football state championship participants Fort Hill and Mountain Ridge, Widdows pointed out.

Widdows noted that parents are “heavily involved” in team sports, and that wouldn’t be necessary at the skatepark.

“It won’t require parents to take them to and from practices,” Jenkins said, acknowledging some parents are less involved, for a variety of reasons, in their children’s after-school or weekend activities.

Next steps

Site selection has to be finalized, and the city of Cumberland is expected to sign the contract with Spohn Ranch Skateparks to formalize the design process. Jenkins said after that, representatives of the design firm will travel to Cumberland to meet with city officials and other stakeholders, including those who would use the park. In fact, a primary part of this project, Jenkins said, is that those who would use the park get a chance to vote for their favorite accessories.

“This is 100 percent community designed. It’s essentially their own fault if they get a park that sucks,” Jenkins laughed.

Committee members, though, will step in to guide whenever necessary, Jenkins said, to ensure the best skatepark possible.

Filed in: Allegany County, Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Outdoors, Sports

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