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Enthusiast jumps to save Tarentum skate park

Concerned that the borough might eliminate the River Avenue skate park, a Harrison resident is spearheading an effort to preserve it.

Hugh Rumbaugh, 33, on Monday gained council's blessing to undertake that mission.

"They gave him permission and said that we would help in anyway we can," Borough Manager Bill Rossey said. "It's similar to the Little League fields. The borough owns the ballfields, but the Little League pretty much takes care of them."

Doubts about the skate park's future emerged as a concern at the Sept. 18 council meeting when Rossey said the park has been closed because of damage to its ramps.

He said the wood material used for it has been damaged and has holes and cracks in it, making it hazardous. He estimated that to repair everything at the James Wolfe Skate Park, which was built in 2006 using a $138,000 state grant, would cost $5,000 to $6,000.

The borough did $2,000 in repairs at the park last year, Rossey said. He said if the borough continues to keep the park open, it is likely to need $3,000 to $5,000 every year or two to repair it.

"We were just looking for some answers, and I basically asked council how long do they want to keep putting money into it," Rossey said. "We put in, since the initial grants, probably another $40,000."

There was some discussion about converting it into a Dek hockey rink.

Rumbaugh, an avid skateboarder since he was 5 who still enjoys that activity, did not want that to happen.

"If there isn't a skate park, then the town becomes a skate park, and a lot of people don't like that," he said.

He said he is planning a three-step approach.

The first is to establish a website where skateboard enthusiasts can provide contact information and have a forum to express support for the park.

He said that will allow him to gather names of possible volunteers who can be called upon to help clean and maintain the park.

Right now, Rumbaugh said he has about 25 people he can call on to help.

"We need to know: are people going to support this• And, are they willing to get involved?" Rumbaugh said. "The big thing is the kids have to get involved because they use it the most. If they don't and they don't want to police it, then I won't put my time into it."

The next step is fundraising to take care of the immediate repairs with the goal of reopening the park in the spring.

That will involve the usual types of fundraising events such as bake sales and raffles as well as soliciting businesses for contributions or perhaps building materials, Rumbaugh said. The solicitations would not only be directed at Tarentum businesses but those in other communities since young people from around the Valley use the park.

He has contacted the foundation set up by renowned skateboard guru Tony Hawk for guidance.

Finally, the third step is molding a permanent fundraising mechanism to take over the maintenance of the park.

"I think the number we're looking at to get this going is $5,000 to $6,000 and to keep it going we'd probably be looking at raising that every two years, which really isn't a lot of money." Rumbaugh said.

He said he doesn't expect Tarentum to maintain the park financially.

He said most major skate parks in the country are maintained by teams of volunteers.

Rumbaugh praised council for its response.

"I was thrilled with how well they were engaging and how they wanted to support this," he said. "For the council to step up like that was fantastic."

Additional Information:

How to help

Anyone interested in contacting Hugh Rumbaugh for more information on preserving the skate park in Tarentum, or to volunteer, can do so via e-mail at tarentumskatepark@gmail.com.

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