Turners Falls skatepark grand opening a memorial to those who fought for it but never got to see it

Turners Falls skatepark grand opening a memorial to those who fought for it but never got to see it

  • James Gonzalez, 24, of Orange tries out Turners Falls’ new skatepark during its grand opening Saturday. Recorder Staff/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • Nate Jackson, 33, of Greenfield tries out Montague's new skatepark during its grand opening Saturday. Recorder Staff/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • Roughly two dozen adults and children were invited to cut the ribbon to signify the grand opening of Montague's Unity Skatepark on Saturday. Recorder Staff/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • The Unity Skatepark, which held its grand opening ceremony Saturday, will serve as the legacy of Greg Ellis, Winter Clark and Christopher Gallagher, who dreamed of a skatepark in their town, but died before it became a reality. A memorial set on the edge of the skatepark honors them. Recorder Staff/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • The Unity Skatepark, which held its grand opening ceremony Saturday, will serve as the legacy of Greg Ellis, Winter Clark and Christopher Gallagher, who dreamed of a skatepark in their town, but died before it became a reality. A memorial set on the edge of the skatepark honors them. Recorder Staff/SHELBY ASHLINE

Recorder Staff
Published: 6/19/2016 10:31:10 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Joanne Ellis choked back tears as she stepped up to the podium to speak about her son Greg “Schwill” Ellis, who was killed in a car accident in 2014.

“My son had two dreams,” she said, “to have a son and to have a skatepark.”

Greg Ellis’ son Anthony is now 4 years old. On Saturday, his second dream became a reality, too, when Unity Skatepark held its grand opening ceremony at 56 First St.

“For close to 20 years, the skatepark has been a dream, a vision,” said Richard Kuklewicz of the Montague Board of Selectmen. Not just for Ellis, but for countless other teenagers, and for Christopher Gallagher and Winter Clark, who drowned in the Connecticut River in 1998, both at the age of 14.

More than two dozen friends and relatives of Greg Ellis, Clark and Gallagher joined Joanne Ellis on a makeshift stage next to the new skatepark to talk about their loved ones and what the skatepark means to them.

“This is a tremendously joyful occasion tinged with sadness,” said David Detmold, a member of the Unity Skatepark Committee.

Detmold recalled the skatepark’s beginnings. Kids were skating anywhere in town that they could, he said, and getting hassled by both business owners and the police, until a handful of courageous 13- and 14-year-olds took matters into their own hands by speaking before the Montague Board of Selectmen.

“I think this is one thing that came to town meeting where everyone said, ‘When do we vote, because we all support this,’” Kuklewicz said.

Since then, the town and the Skatepark Committee have been working together to launch the project. The total construction cost $390,650, of which a PARC grant from the Massachusetts Division of Conservation and Recreation covered $272,000, according to Detmold.

An additional $79,100 was set aside by the town, and the Skatepark Committee raised more than $60,000 from raffles, poetry readings, can and bottle drives, benefit concerts and a skateboard art auction, Detmold said.

“There were so many individuals who gave a dollar here, a dollar there,” Detmold said.

“Something like this doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” added Jon Dobosz, director of Montague Parks and Recreation. “It truly takes a community and then some.”

State Rep. Stephen Kulik was also present and shared a few words before the ribbon cutting.

“I can’t think of a better investment in your tax dollars,” Kulik said of the skatepark, adding that it is an incredible attraction for both adults and children. “It’s something that puts Montague on the map.”

Indeed, both adults and children took to trying out the new skatepark, with some competing in a skateboarding contest from 2 to 4 p.m.

“This is one of the better designed skateparks I’ve been to,” said Nate Jackson, 31, of Greenfield.

Jackson said that he has skated all over the country, and grew up skating alongside Greg Ellis, his best friend. Now, having Unity Skatepark “means everything” to him.

“I still feel him skating here,” Joanne Ellis said of her son. “The best part is I can see my grandson skating here.”

The skatepark will serve as the legacy of Greg Ellis, Clark and Gallagher as a memorial has been placed on the edge of the skatepark in their honor: an engraved plaque and three black skateboards.


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