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Skate court in session

Skaters temporarily use old Tupper tennis venue

Tyler Yell attempts an aerial trick at the Matthew Wilson Memorial Skatepark’s temporary location on the Tupper Lake tennis courts. He did not land this attempt, but now that the ramps are back in action, he said he has a lot more opportunity to practice. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

TUPPER LAKE — The clack of skateboard wheels slamming down on asphalt rang out Tuesday at the village tennis courts.

A handful of local kids was enjoying the sunny day there. Some leaped their boards off ramps while others sat on top of the ramps and chatted.

One court is now the temporary home of the Matthew Wilson Memorial Skatepark, which was put out of commission last summer to make room for the park’s new Little League baseball field. The skatepark was reassembled by the village Electric Department and Department of Public Works June 28. The departments used a boom truck to lift two vertical ramps over the 8-foot fence, placing them facing each other a couple dozen yards away.

The skatepark was created 15 years ago by a committee headed by then-Mayor Mickey Demarais and Tupper Lake Free Press newspaper owner Dan McClelland. Local skater Zach Hockey helped a group raise $25,000 for ramps and an asphalt pad for the original location.

Last year, as the Tupper Lake Youth Baseball and Softball Association began excavating the park for its Little League field — which opened last weekend — the skatepark ramps were moved onto the grass on the condition that they would be moved back to the pavement when the field is done.

In the meantime, skateboarders had to find other places with interesting fixtures to jump, grind and skate on.

“Just around the streets, our high school. The elementary school is fun. Banks when they’re closed,” said high school skater Tyler Yell. “The churches have really good spots, but we feel bad skating them because they’re a church.”

Skaters were out on the streets all last summer and several months this spring. Village board Trustee Ron LaScala said he started hearing complaints about the park being out of commission for so long. Recently, police caught someone who spray painted, “Give us our park back,” on the ramps sitting on the grass in the park.

The village took to an idea Trustee David “Haji” Maroun suggested last year: Put the park on one of the tennis courts near the original location. Both courts in the park are in need of refinishing, but one is significantly less usable for tennis, with grass growing through the cracks in the concrete and large humps threatening ankles and stray balls.

“There was all sorts of broken glass in here,” LaScala said. “Nobody was using it.”

DPW Superintendent Bob DeGrace coordinated with Electric Department Superintendent Mike Dominie and line Supervisor Carl Larson to set up the park in the tennis court.

LaScala said there are more regular skaters than tennis players in town, estimating that around 25 people skate. And skaters aren’t the only people using the park. On Tuesday, Yell and Owen Gonyea, who have both been skating for six years, were taking turns on a board while Caleb Martin rode a bike around the park and a handful of friends hung out on the ramps.

The village board is split on what to do for the future of the skatepark, LaScala said.

Trustee Clint Hollingsworth says a 60-by-90-foot spot between bathrooms, basketball courts and tennis courts would be a good location.

LaScala said he wants to refinish the tennis courts, with one side remaining the skatepark, separated by a fence.

The board will discuss the location in the coming months to find a long-term solution.

LaScala said wherever the skatepark ends up, he wants it to be permanent so they don’t have to move it again.

On Tuesday afternoon there were a handful of other people in the Municipal Park, at the Little Loggers playground and walking along the waterfront, but the main action was down at the skatepark. Yell said the park still needs its “fun box” with a rail brought back in. Gonyea said Hockey has big plans for the future of the park.

LaScala said in the next week he is going to research how much money is available for the village to build a permanent skatepark.

“Sometime these guys get a bad rap for no reason. I think sometimes they just kind of get overlooked,” LaScala said. “Nobody’s smoking cigarettes. Nobody’s drinking alcohol. Nobody’s swearing and causing a big scene. These kids are just down here, enjoying their summer vacation skating on the old, unusable tennis courts.”

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