Shelton skater, IT manager hopes to revive downtown skate park

SHELTON — Jim Mazzadra was not your traditional athlete — instead of taking to the diamond or football field, he took to skateboarding.

Mazzadra would spend every day honing his skating skills, and spending time decompressing from a long day of school with his friends, at the now-defunct skate park located under the Route 8 bridge on Riverdale Avenue.

Those days are long gone — as is the skate park — but Mazzadra, who has been skating for two decades, feels as the downtown continues to expand it, one thing remains missing.

“This would be the Shelton skate park,” said Mazzadra, who graduated from Shelton High in 2012 and now manages an IT company in Milford.

“Back when the bridge re-construction was in talks, many skateboarders were upset to learn that the beloved Shelton park would be disassembled, with the hope that one day it would be put back up after the construction,” he said. “Many are still waiting for that day.”

He said the park was a place to meet friends after school or work to have fun and practice.

“I met so many people here and made many new friends, (and) also spend countless hours here learning new tricks,” he said. “Blood sweat and tears were left in the park. The freedom just to go down to the park at any time and blow off steam was a great privilege to have.”

To help bring skaters a place to practice their skills, he started a petition on this past weekend seeking others who support his call for a reopened skate park. The petition had gathered just under 400 signatures by Thursday afternoon.

“As a kid and young adult, Shelton skate park was somewhere to get rid of stress after a long day,” he states in his petition. “The park had various obstacles that helped improve many individuals skateboarding. Many memories were created here, I have numerous stories about things that happened at the park as do many other people.”

He said that “no skateboarding” signs are everywhere around town, so finding a place to skate is now difficult.

“Bringing back the Shelton park will impact the youth significantly,” he added. “The town is constantly growing and there are many new families here. This gives kids an opportunity to learn a new sport. When you skateboard, you use a lot of energy.

“Skateboarding helped shape my life and made me into the person I am today. Not everyone is meant for football or baseball,” he said. “We need a designated place for skateboarding again.”

Shelton Parks and Recreation Director Ron Herrick said the city, in conjunction with the City of Derby, received permission from the state to use space under the Route 8 overpass off Riverdale Avenue. The area is state-owned land.

Herrick said both cities contributed to the equipment purchases, and the Valley YMCA was involved in overseeing the site for some years. Shelton took over that duty for the next three years, during which time he said use dwindled.

He said the site remained open for several years without onsite staff.

In the late-2010s, the area was closed as the state was doing construction on the Route 8 bridge under which sat the skate park. Herrick said some of the equipment was damaged while being removed, and in the end the park was never reopened.

Herrick said over the ensuing years, he may receive a call or two a year asking about reopening the park or creating a new one, but interest has not been high.

Alderman Eric McPherson, who represents Ward 2, where the original skate park once sat, said he would support the idea but only after the city thoroughly examined potential liability issues.

McPherson said during his first run on the Board of Aldermen back in the mid-1990s he was a major advocate for creation of a skate park. He was not on the Board of Aldermen when the project was finally approved, but he was pleased and sees benefits in bringing it back.

Mazzadra said he has reached out to McPherson, fellow Ward 2 Alderman Michele Bialek and Mayor Mark Lauretti about reopening the skate park.

“I’m really hoping we can discuss something soon,” he said, adding that he has been taking to social media to spread the word. “That is not all, however. I also reached out to Tony Hawk’s ‘The Skatepark Project’ to see if his team is able to assist with putting something together.”