"Skateboarding kinda thrives on economical disasters," says Tony Miorana, a skateboarder and skatepark builder now spending the majority of his time in a downtrodden, partially vacant Detroit, Mich. neighborhood.
A veteran of do-it-yourself skatepark builds, Miorana arrived in Detroit with his sights set on a new project spearheaded by Power House Productions, a neighborhood based non-profit organization devoted to revitalizing and inspiring inner city communities. Their mission: a public skatepark that encompasses four vacant commercial lots along East Davison Freeway in Detroit, with an adjacent vacant house as the main site for the project, ultimately becoming a residence for visiting skateboarders and artists.
The park, dubbed the RideIt Sculpture Park, is part of a plan to revitalize a neighborhood known for crime, economic woes and vacant houses. Locals visiting the construction of the park commented on the sight: "The reality of the place -- it's in the ghetto. A kid walked up with a sharpened screw driver because he couldn't afford a knife or gun to protect himself around there," read a comment on a recent BMX video filmed at the partially completed park.
But the builders of the park are up to the challenge. "Detroit seemed cool to me, cause it seems like all of the places we've built are run down and abandoned, forgotten about. It seems like that whole city is full of that kind of atmosphere," says Miorana.
Through grassroots fundraising, Power House Productions aimed to change the perspectives of the area. To date, the organization has raised over $50,000 to revitalize the area. Following the purchase of the four vacant lots and house by Power House, plans were devised to extend the park's area, with hopes to recruit members of the neighborhood. "Designing and building of RideIt Sculpture Park has been done with the help and input of the local teens, making them stakeholders/skateboarders in the growth and success of their neighborhood," says the organization.
Following the initial opening of the first phase of the park earlier this summer, Power House aims to continue community (and park) growth. "The park will extend into the neighborhood revamping neglected alleys, garages and other vacant lots, creating a new and positive use for the forgotten and dismissed landscapes of this great city," says Power House.
So far, locals in the Detroit area aren't complaining. Following a recent visit to the park, BMX rider and Detroit resident Dane Wild was enriched by the atmosphere. "It was the best experience I've ever had with skateboarders, rollerbladers and bike riders together for a session," said Wild. "Some kids from the neighborhood were there too, and they were so stoked on getting a place to skate -- it was heart warming," he continued.
Wild sees the project as part of a bigger movement to put Detroit back on the map. "It's bad here in Detroit, but at the same time, the city has this super uprising coming from young people, and this new skatepark is another piece of the puzzle."
Currently, work continues on the RideIt Sculpture Park, and donations for the project are still being accepted through the Crowd Rise website.