SALEM, N.H. — Hedgehog Park is in need again — this time of a skate park renovation.
Spearheaded by resident Brennan Getchell in 2004 and paid for with donations, the park has been bladed, skated and biked over without maintenance for more than a decade.
“My friends and I were just always trying to skate,” said Getchell, now 32. “We would skate in parking lots but always got kicked out. There was nowhere else to go back then.”
Fast-forward 17 years and the town recently secured silver chains around the entrance with a lock, deeming it unsafe for any use.
Assistant fire Chief and Chief Building Official Jeffrey Emanuelson said he conducted the evaluation alongside Salem’s building inspector. The two decided that the skate park props need significant repairs.
Emanuelson said the ultimate decision to condemn the spot was made by the Recreation Department, which is overseen by Assistant Town Manager William Scott.
Scott did not respond when asked to comment for this article about the town’s involvement with renovation efforts.
Awaiting action, some who frequent the park have hung handwritten signs: “Save our park,” “Let us skate,” and “Let us fix it.”
The skate area is regarded for more than fresh air and fitness. Salem native Eric Arsenault, 36, has come to rely on it for his sobriety.
Two years sober, Arsenault said he needed to fill time when the pandemic hit and regular group meetings, like Alcoholics Anonymous, were no longer offered.
“I started skating again. I hadn’t skated since I was a teenager,” he said. “I caught fire with it. I fell in love with it again, and I got better again.”
Two hours each evening are now dedicated to skating and rollerblading at Hedgehog Park. He sometimes guides wobbly kids just getting started, and has even given away some of his own equipment to those in need.
“Most of the time there were between 5 and 25 people there during the evenings,” Arsenault said. “They range from 5-year-old kids to me, being 36. I help when I can. I don’t want them getting as hurt as I did growing up.”
Greg Getchell, whose younger brother Brennan got the park started, is in on the effort to breathe life back into it.
Hundreds of people liked, commented and shared one of Greg’s Facebook posts seeking support from the community.
“Every time I drive by I see kids out there,” he said. “I really don’t want to see this taken away from them. This is the first year the Olympics has allowed skateboarding, and I think kids are going to see that, maybe ones who don’t play team sports, and want to give it a try.”
In recent weeks he drove by and saw Arsenault, he said, an old friend he was proud to learn was sober.
“After hearing how much the park meant to him, that’s when I knew action needed to be taken,” Greg Getchell said. “This can’t wait.”
Efforts are underway to establish a tax-exempt organization through which donations can be accepted, according to the Getchell brothers. It will be called Friends of Salem, New Hampshire, Recreation.
A coinciding GoFundMe page is expected soon under the same name.