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SOUTH KINGSTOWN—As the summer sun beats down mightily upon the earth, many local residents head immediately to the beach or pool, looking for a way to cool down. Old Mountain Field in South Kingstown looks abandoned upon first approach, but exploring a bit further, one sees and hears a group of kids having serious fun. They are the skateboarders at Old Mount Field’s Skate Park.
In 2007, Andrew Barbosa, an avid skateboarder and South Kingstown High School graduate, wanted to bring the sport to the local kids of the community, and saw a run down skate park behind Old Mountain Field as the perfect opportunity for improvement.
“The Parks and Recreation Department doesn’t have a budget for us and every summer we’ve been working on the park,” said Barbosa. “This was a real cheap skate park, one of a number of parks built by Scituate Concrete in cities such as Newport, Bristol, and North Kingstown.”
“The problem is all of these cities were sold on quick-built skate parks, and now that we are 13 years in, there have been things like cracks in the pavement where kids would fall,” he added. “So we have been fixing things, and the park has come a long way.”
Barbosa founded a summer skating camp and, through the help of South Kingstown Parks and Recreation Department, a healthy following has emerged, bringing local kids together to skate and help to make improvements to the park.
“The town started to pick up that we were running these camps privately and I didn’t know you couldn’t do that,” said Barbosa. “But then they contacted me to work with the Parks and Recreation Department.”
Barbosa has even received help from Concrete Couch, a Colorado-based non-profit group which specializes in building benches at parks and venues across the country. Barbosa has worked with Steven Wood, Concrete Couch’s founder, to make benches at the skate park which skateboarders can ride along or sit upon. Wood donated $1,000 worth of supplies to complete the project.
“Last week, we had 15 kids help build the bench, and it is a really cool project in which they can dedicate their time,” said Barbosa. “[Concrete Couch’s help] has been a huge hit for my campers and, as a result, a group of parents and URI students have begun filming a documentary about the renovation and beautification of the OMF skate park that has gone on since we began our own non-profit dedicated to fixing the park.”
This Saturday, July 21, Barbosa and the Parks and Recreation Department will hold the Sixth Annual Old Mountain Field Skate Contest. The competition, which has had nearly 200 people participate in the past, offers young skateboarders the chance to develop their skills while raising money to help fund work on the skate park. In the six years that the event has been held, Barbosa has raised over $10,000 for improvements.
“Sometimes there is a negative connotation to skate boarding as an act that fosters inappropriate behavior,” said Barbosa. “With the camp, we have competitions and create public awareness to tell people that it is a great activity.”
The competition is open to all skill levels, and participants will fight in three contests for best skating performance, best trick, and best game of S.K.A.T.E showing. Local sponsors for the event include Pier Pizza Company and Gansett Juice in Narragansett, who are particularly enthused about the unique competition.
“We always get stoked about any skate contest, and [the Old Mountain Field Skate Contest] brings kids to the skate park and off the street,” said Trish Pan, Manager at Gansett Juice, one of the sponsors of the event. “It gives them a sense of competition with each other and will make them skate better.
Gansett Juice has sponsored the event since its inception in 2007, supporting Barbosa and his efforts to develop skateboarding as not just a sport, but a community-building activity for local kids.
“[This event] shows them that there is something more out there than skating in a park, bringing them closer to being professional, closer to where we are,” said Pan. “Andrew is a really good guy and I think he is doing really great things for the sport and kids in this area.”
Barbosa, who is currently finishing up his degree in Recreational Management at San Diego State University, hopes that the success of the Old Mountain Field skate park continues well into the future as his younger brother, Hunter, takes over.
“It has been a whole lot of fun, and I want to make sure that the program does not stagnate,” said Barbosa. “This is probably the most used facility at Old Mountain Field, and it is a safe spot for kids to hang out and participate in a healthy activity.”
The Old Mountain Field Skate Contest starts at 11 a.m., with registration available at 10 a.m. Prices for participation range from $10 to $20, and the event is open to all levels of skating. For more information, contact South Kingstown Parks and Recreation Department at 789-9301.