By Eamon Baird
TROY — Troy City Skatepark Unite (TCSU) will host its fourth annual “Keep Pushing” fundraiser on Saturday, Sept. 23, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Joe Reardon Skate Park at 99 N. Ridge Ave., No. 43.
Matt Williams, founder of TCSU, seeks support to improve upon a skate park in honor of a late friend who showed kindness and compassion to him and fellow skaters over thirty years ago.
The free event, sponsored by Ernst Concrete, will feature local vendors with live and silent auctions: a skate jam and the best trick contest. Trojan City Music will provide the PA music speakers throughout the day.
Williams began skating at the age of 11 on a hand-me-down skateboard from his brother in the late ’80s. He remembers his first encounter with Charles Sharett, the first recreation director of Troy while skating with friends in 1991.
“We were skating at the Hobart Arena, and he [Sharett] initially came to say, ‘Hey, you can’t do that here,’” After Williams and his friends went back to skate, Sharett came out again and approached the youths. Instead of disciplining the boys, Sharett approached them to ask if they had anywhere to skate.
With Sharett’s assistance, the same group of boys built the first skate park of Troy in the same parking lot of Hobart Arena in 1991.
Sharett died on Jan. 13, 2003. A sign honoring his contributions to the Troy community is located at McKaig Avenue and Race Park. Williams keeps a news clipping of an article about the skate park Sharett helped him build and a photo of Sharett in his office.
Today Williams worries about the current state of the Joe Reardon skate park.
“I just want to educate the public and the city officials about the amount of impact that this park could have on so many levels that are not being seen,” Williams said. “A lot of it’s due to the park being very dated, becoming dangerous. And the level of upkeep to keep it where it’s inevitable that at some point, they’re going to need to do something about it.”
The park has no functioning bathrooms except for a port-a-potty and inadequate seating. Williams notes he sometimes sees parents sitting in their cars rather than outside when their kids are skating.
Williams discussed why he chose the name, how he came up with the name for his non-profit organization, and why this skate park is vital to the Troy community.
“The Unite part of the name is about educating people, bringing people together; that’s what skate parks do. They bring people in who don’t normally fit together. You can have somebody who is very wealthy from a great family life to somebody who has been adopted or been through abuse or maybe addicted to drugs. No matter what you’re into, you have this common bond with them just because of what you’re doing at this park,” Williams said.
With the fundraiser, Williams hopes to make enough money to replace the outdated metal with more concrete and make more improvements with assistance from the city.
Recently, TCSU received a grant from Plant-a-Park, which will help design the new skate facility. Williams said these projects can range in cost between $10,000 and $18,000.
Williams hopes this year’s fundraiser will get TCSU one step closer to a new and improved skate park in Troy. One that he says he will name after Sharett.
“The skate park provides a safe place where everyone accepts you for who you are,” Williams said.