The local daily paper wrote and ran a story about the beginning of our journey. Check it out here!
CONWAY — Everyone does it — “you just don’t know it because there’s nowhere for them to go,” said Caren Wiggin of Conway.
“Even if it’s not you doing the skateboarding, it’s someone you love, someone you know,” added her mother, Anna Peare, also of Conway.
They’re working to fix that problem.
After Kevin Peare — Caren’s brother and Anna’s son — died earlier this year at the age of 31, they began devoting time to building a memorial skate park in his honor.
Kevin was a Mount Washington Valley native who spent 12 years with Rockingham Electric in both Conway and Newington. He had plans to open a skate park in Conway, and Anna, 55, recalls that he and his friends decorated cans to raise funds for that purpose.
At a July 22 celebration of Kevin’s life, Caren and Anna mentioned continuing his dream of building a skate park.
After Caren, 37, emailed the Tony Hawk Foundation for advice on how to begin, things came together quickly.
What started as a mother-daughter team has become a non-profit organization backed by the Mount Washington Valley Preservation Association.
In the months ahead, the Kevin Peare Memorial Skate Park has scheduled a number of fundraising events. In the meantime, many people have reached out to offer services and time because of their connection to Kevin.
April Deschenes, Cranmore Fitness Program lead, put together an outdoor yoga fundraiser on Oct. 6 on Zip’s Pub’s deck at Cranmore Mountain Resort.
Deschenes was friends with Kevin in high school. Putting her expertise to use, she said, “was a way that I personally could contribute.”
This Saturday, Oct. 14, Rye Airfield Skate & Bike Park, situated halfway between Portsmouth and Hampton, will host a Halloween-themed Skate for Kevin fundraiser, with raffles and a costume contest.
Liz Davis, whose husband, Steve, was a longtime friend of Kevin, chose Rye Airfield because of the sentiment attached to it. She had once rented out the park for Steve’s birthday, and remembered Kevin saying it was a great way to end a long weekend shift working at a gastropub in Portsmouth, so she chose the same time slot, 9-11 p.m.
Everyone is welcome to attend Saturday’s event, skater or not. Entry is free, and all donations will go toward Kevin’s memorial skate park.
Over 24 local businesses have already shown their support by displaying donation cans, and the committee has 24 more ready to go for those that want to get on board.
On the cans are a picture of Kevin and of Tetuan Skatepark in Spain, which has features that the committee hopes to integrate into their own park design when the time comes.
Underneath are the words, “The dream of a young boy, turned into a dream for those he left behind.”
The skate park is still a dream, but it is one that could become reality in the next 2-5 years, according to Alec Beck, director of the Tony Hawk Foundation.
The foundation offers grants to groups building skate parks in low-income communities, ranging from $1,000-$25,000, and it has funded over 536 projects like the Kevin Peare Memorial Skate Park.
“They’re certainly ahead of the game,” said Beck, of the board. “And the passion and the amount of support that has gained momentum around the project tells me that it will probably be ahead of schedule.
“It’s very clear that Conway has a strong sense of community,” he said.
There are quite a few requirements to be eligible for the grants, but Beck worked with Caren to make sure each was met and has even sat in on one of their board meetings.
When the time is right, Caren, Anna and the rest of the board can file a grant application. But even if they receive the maximum amount, the skate park will still require quite a bit more money.
There is also the issue of location.
The board is adamant that the park be located in Conway Village, which Anna calls “the entrance to the valley.”
Ben Colbath, fellow board member, said: “In a valley like this … everything is built to bring you in town (North Conway). People like us want to see some stuff built for us.
“The Ham Foundation did a great job getting the Ham Arena built, and Mountain Top Music taking over the Majestic,” Colbath said.
The board is working to find a parcel that is zoned commercial and suitable for a skate park.
Even in small communities anything under 5,000 square feet isn’t recommended, Beck said. He said 6,000-8,000 square feet is a good size — 10,000 even better — but it costs between $40-45 per square foot to construct a concrete park.
Carl Thibodeau, selectman and owner of the Conway Marketplace, suggested they look into an abandoned industrial site off of Hobbs Street.
For about 10 years, skateboarders have used a small section of Thibodeau’s marketplace lot.
They, including Kevin, made a concrete slab a meeting place, and Thibodeau allowed it as they were respectful, good kids.
But Thibodeau received an offer for the property, which is now under agreement.
While the loss of the skate spot hit them hard, Caren said “they are just so determined, they’re going to find another place.”
This sentiment is shared by Janice Crawford, executive director of the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce, who said “They find a way, so let’s give them something. As their brochure says, if you build it, they will come.”
Crawford is also part of the preservation association, the fiscal agent of the skate park. She said the project fits their mission to “be an organization that can help different projects that provide for the community … that extends to preserving quality of life.”
And, she said, “if we can get kids out the doors and off their cellphones, that’s a win for me.”
And she sees a tourism angle, as well. Parents searching for something that suits their children’s interest might be drawn to a skate park like this, a free, open space.
“Not only does it provide a super valuable youth recreation state, but it can be a very powerful thing to not only bring the community together but for social cohesion,” Crawford said.
Anna said after the park is built, there are other things that “can be improved on, too, that we can be a part of.”
The board is looking into replacing some outdated flags and light pole brackets in Conway.
“It’s not just that we want to do this in memory of Kevin. We want to do this in memory of Kevin and for all the other Kevins out there in the future,” Colbath said.
For inquiries about T-shirts, stickers and possible fundraising events, go to the Kevin Peare Memorial Skate Park Facebook page
For information about the Kevin Peare Memorial Skate Park or get a collection can, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to P.O. Box 210, Conway, NH 03818.