Now that Portland’s first permanent skateboard park finally opened this weekend, the wait for a legal place to ride is over. And best of all, BMX riders are welcome.

These guys not only get kicked out of public parks — they get kicked out of skateparks. But no more.

“All the good ones don’t allow bikes. The best park in Maine (before was) Lewiston and it’s ‘no bikes.’ That’s why we’re excited. And we’re the locals. We’ll be here all the time,” said BMX rider Rocco DiDonato, 18, of Portland as he watched the park being built.

The grand opening Saturday marked the culmination of three years of planning by Portland’s Skatepark Committee.

The new park at St. James Street has got a bench, A-frame pyramid, skate dish, hubba ledges, steps, rails, rollers, radial ledges and more.

It cost $325,000 and was funded with private and public money.

The park was created by Hardcore Shotcrete Skateparks Inc., a 10-year-old Missouri company that has built parks in major cities nationwide, such as Denver, Seattle, Louisville, Ky.; and Park City, Utah.

As DiDonato and four others looked over the park a week before it was completed, they wondered if there would be room for them with the hordes of riders who will use it.

“It’s amazing,” said Illes Estes, 19, of Portland.

BMX rider Josiah Webber said most every good-sized city in Maine has one. He rattled off several parks, including those in Scarborough, Standish, Sanford, Biddeford, Bath, Brunswick, South Paris, Bethel and most of all Lewiston.

But they don’t allow BMX bikes.

“Even if you wanted to try to sneak onto the one in Lewiston, they won’t have it. It’s next to the police station,” Estes said.

Sometimes, he said, they go out of state to ride legally in parks with rails, bowls and steps. They head to New Hampshire, even Boston. But that’s tough.

“We’d go to Rye whenever we have gas money,” Estes said. “There is one in Boston, but it’s in a creepy part. I heard you wouldn’t want to be there after dark.”

The stories of Portland’s old park, the Forum, are part of city lore now.

The wooden structure on Marginal Way rotted and became unsafe, but it was never very big.

Webber said skaters stole parts or brought in temporary fixtures.

Then in 2006, the Forum was bulldozed to clear the way for housing, sending skaters and riders fanning out across the city to find rails and steps in public places.

From the riders’ standpoint, quite frankly, poaching parks stunk.

“We’d ride at the Nickelodeon. But we’d get kicked out,” DiDonato said.

Now that’s all done. Both skateboard and BMX riders have their own space, and ownership of it set in well before the last of the concrete was poured.

To Portland’s community of riders, the new park is practically historic.

“I’ve been taking photographs, documenting every stage for eight weeks,” said DiDonato, a freshman at Southern Maine Community College.

And now that they have a legal place, Maine’s band of BMX riders can’t think of anything else they need.

“The only thing is it’s so big, there will probably be tons of people coming to use it,” Webber said. “We’ll have to come at 6:30 a.m. to ride here.”

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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