OLD ORCHARD BEACH – Efforts to build a skate park in town got a boost this week: a grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation.

Old Orchard Beach is one of 15 communities to receive $5,000 grants from the foundation, a national nonprofit organization focused on empowering youths by supporting recreational programs.

The town once had a skate park, built from donated materials on town-owned property on E. Emerson Cummings Boulevard. Recreation Director Jason Webber said the park had to be dismantled, because the materials did not withstand Maine’s harsh winter weather and because space was needed for the town’s new police station.

With the skate park gone, the recreation department realized there was still a great need for one. Webber said a committee of youths and supportive adults was formed about a year ago to plan a more permanent skate park.

As part of the planning, Webber said, committee members “first were finding out what the skaters want and then doing a reality check of what you want and what you can achieve.”

Webber estimated the new skate park will cost $70,000 to $100,000. The Town Council has already allocated $30,000 for the project.

The Tony Hawk Foundation, named for the renowned professional skateboarder who established it, receives as many as 450 grant applications each year. Most request the maximum amount of $25,000.

Applications — which require organizations to thoroughly outline their plans and the work they have done — were due Oct. 1. According to the foundation’s website, the competition was stiff.

“We’re grateful for the Tony Hawk Foundation (grant),” Webber said. “Any money is great for this community.”

Nearly 30 people of all ages gather for committee meetings, Webber said. Eric Santos, 17, is one skateboarder who has been heavily involved in the planning and fundraising.

“I have been skateboarding since I could walk,” the Old Orchard Beach High School senior said. He picked up the sport from his father, Chris Santos, another member of the committee.

Santos said he now skateboards around town wherever he can find dry, flat ground. There is a large skateboarding community in the town, he said, and some youths have gone to Portland’s new skate park since it opened last month.

“We need a good concrete skate park here that will draw people to the town,” Santos said. “I think we should have something new and innovative.”

Santos hopes for a park with a bowl, ledges, rails, a quarter-pipe and lots of flowing terrain, but he realizes that funding might limit the features.

In addition to planning the skate park, Webber said, the committee is constantly brainstorming sources for funding. The panel has a community benefit night scheduled March 22 at Flatbread Company in Portland. A portion of the night’s pizza sales will help fund the skate park.

No site has been chosen for the park, but Webber said the committee hopes to build on the 50 acres of town-owned land near The Ballpark.

The skate park will be an important resource, Webber said, “to try and divert those kids off the street and give them a venue.”

Santos agreed. “It will give them a positive outlet to exert themselves and get active,” he said.

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]