IT’S BEEN a decade of fits and starts since the nonprofit Charles River Conservancy announced its intention to create a park for skateboarders, BMX riders, in-line skaters, and wheelchair athletes. The proposed location is ideal: North Point Park in East Cambridge, beneath the ramps to the Zakim Bridge. But the obstacles were also great, including the $3 million development cost and reticent state recreation officials.
The recent announcement of a $1.5 million gift from Vans, the action sports apparel retailer, helps to solve the funding issue. Now the state Department of Transportation, which controls the reclaimed industrial land, needs to complete the land transfer to the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, which will maintain the skate park. Federal highway officials also must approve the transfer.
The unorthodox nature of the park and unnecessary fears over liability have slowed down this creative project. But the attitudes of state officials seem to be catching up with the enthusiasm shown by hundreds of local devotees of skateboarding. Skaters, some of whom are highly conditioned athletes, deserve a place to showcase their skills.
If all goes according to plan, the Lynch Family Skatepark — for the family of financial services guru Peter Lynch — should break ground in the fall. The venue should blend well with the broader effort to rejuvenate the parklands along the Charles River near North Station. More important, the skate park sends a powerful signal about an area that welcomes the edgier aspects of the youth culture and its role in shaping an innovative economy.