Secret Skatepark Demolished, Builders Turn Page In Anne Arundel County
ODENTON, MD — Skateboarders are often seen as edgy troublemakers, teens who loiter in shopping centers and grind on curbs. If you ask a group of Anne Arundel County skatepark builders, that stereotype is misguided.
These skaters, all in their late 20s, built a secret skatepark on an empty Odenton lot. On weekdays, they teach yoga and work in construction. On weekends, they build DIY skateparks that are hidden oases for overlooked skaters seeking a community.
The skaters spent 2 years building their dream park on somebody else's vacant property, which was undergoing an environmental contamination cleanup. The property owner, however, demolished the park last month with plans to erect a 297-unit apartment complex, known as Academy Yard Phase II.
Despite the demolition, the skaters have already started their next build and are lobbying for an official, county-funded skatepark in Odenton. The group is meeting with a county council member on Tuesday to discuss potential next steps.
“We’ve definitely been neglected,” 29-year-old Gabe Pastirik told Patch. “We don’t look like golfers. We don’t look like tennis players. We don’t look like swimmers. We look like we come in all shapes and sizes. We’re definitely judged upon how we look.”
Pastirik started building The Flats DIY Skatepark with Tessa Fullmer, 27, in June 2021. Their friends Tyler Garrett, 29, and Nick Galimberti, 28, joined soon after.
The skatepark was located next to Flats 170 at Academy Yard, an apartment complex on Telegraph Road.
The vacant 4.63 acres used to house a plastic factory, but an underground diesel leak at a neighboring paper processing plant forced the plastic factory to be demolished in 2012. Inspectors also found elevated levels of lead, mercury, and arsenic in the fill soil.
The pollution was then sealed off with concrete. This cap must remain in place. Other residential water sources will be necessary because the groundwater still has contaminants. The Environmental Protection Agency said the cleanup is complete and “is protective of human health and the environment.”
The property was left untouched for nearly a decade as the EPA and the Maryland Department of the Environment cleaned the site. The stagnant lot made it a prime location for a DIY skatepark.
The skaters said the property manager gave them his blessing to build the park but warned them he would demolish it before building the apartments.
Patch could not independently verify this claim with the property owner, S/C Odenton, LLC. Company representative George Carras declined to comment.
The park had about 20 features, all built by the skaters. There were quarter-pipe ramps, ledges and rails. There was even a shack, offering shade from the summer sun.
“It takes us to build it for then the shredders to come kill it,” Galimberti said. “It’s cool to build something and see somebody do a cool trick on it, even if I can’t do that trick.”
Galimberti’s favorite feature at The Flats DIY was the first quarter pipe that they built. That’s where his 7-year-old son learned to drop into a ramp on a skateboard.
The group spent Saturdays, dubbed Flaturdays, at The Flats DIY. The park was busy, with 20 skaters at a time and 50 total rolling through per day.
Skaters of all ages, genders, religions and experience levels turned out. As long as you cared about skating, you were welcome.
Skaters posted videos online, growing The Flats DIY Instagram page to 900 followers and luring local professionals to the park. Shout-outs started flowing in from industry heavyweights like Pure Boardshop, a skate store in Annapolis with 14,000 followers.
The skating community sent donations to grow the park. The group spent about $4,000 on construction, including $1,500 for the shack. Most donations ranged from $20 to $150 per person.
Skaters took care of the park, emptying trash cans weekly and prohibiting drugs on the premises. Some even brought their dogs.
The Flats felt like home because it was a skatepark built by skaters for skaters.
That ride came to an end in July when the property manager told the skaters he was tearing down the park.
The Flats DIY didn’t go down without a fight. Fullmer started a petition against the demolition. The petition collected 1,800 signatures, but that didn’t stop the property owner from bulldozing the park on July 14.
“It was pretty devastating,” Fullmer said. “We put so much time and effort, over a year, and it was gone in 30 minutes.”
The demolition of The Flats DIY isn’t the end for these skatepark builders.
They started construction on a new secret skatepark in Odenton about a month ago.
This one, called The Swamp, is located off Patuxent Road. The park already has three ramps and several rails, but the builders are adding new features weekly. Skaters can message the DMV DIY Instagram page to get the park’s exact location.
The same team is also working on the existing Mayo Skatepark, also known as Hellmanns Builder Guild. The nickname plays off the Hellmann’s mayonnaise brand and the park’s location in the town of Mayo. Contact Hellmanns Builder Guild on Instagram for this park’s address.
The skaters prefer these DIY spots over the closest official skateparks in Glen Burnie and Bowie. They say government-funded parks are often crowded with beginners and lacking in premier features.
The skaters are meeting with County Council Member Julie Hummer (D-District 4) Tuesday to discuss the future of skateboarding in Anne Arundel County.
The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the Odenton Library. All are welcome to attend.
“I am fully sympathetic with the skaters that they want somewhere to go,” Hummer said, noting that the skatepark posed an insurance liability. “The Flats property that [they were] using is private property … Let's see if we can find some property and create some kind of park for them.”
Expanding recreation in Odenton is a priority for lawmakers.
The county just finished a $5 million renovation at GORC Park.
Planners are also designing a new Odenton Library Community Park. The $8.3 million site will have pickleball courts, a playground and walking trails. Phase One is scheduled to open in 2025. An eventual Phase Two will bring an amphitheater and a dog park.
The skaters want a slice of this investment in recreation. They’re eager to work with the county on a potential public skatepark, but they won’t stop building their own either.
“We don’t need that much. We need just a safe space and maybe a little bit of funds,” Garrett said. “We aren’t really going to stop what we’re doing. We’re just going to keep going with the DIY stuff meanwhile, but we still want to see what we can do on the county level.”
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