Who: Pete Dorrance
What: Skateboarder and social activist
When: 5:30pm, Monday, April 30
Where: A house on the West Side of Providence
Why: ‘Cause skateboarders are awesome, duh
Pete Dorrance skates as much as he can. Between his full-time job (working with autistic students) and chipping away at his dream (starting a nonprofit), he’s a busy guy. Still, skateboarding always factors heavily into the mix. He’s been skating for 20 years; he knows no other way. “When I was a kid, my parents took me to Waterbrothers — a surf and skate shop in Newport. They had a halfpipe next to the shop, which was right on the beach,” he recalls.
Pete grew up in suburbia and skated in his neighborhood; occasionally, he came to Providence to street skate. Regardless of where he chose to shred, he always faced opposition. “Skating has become more accepted, but it’s still a constant battle for skateboarders to street skate and find new terrain,” he says. “Skaters still get tickets, police still confiscate boards and security guards still hassle kids.”
Skaters need to seek out new places to shred in order to ramp-up their own repertoire of tricks and keep up with the increasing level of “mind boggling” competition that currently exists out there. Pete and his crew got sick of butting their heads against the proverbial wall; a few of them banded together and hence the idea for the nonprofit was born.
“There are not nearly enough skateparks and until that problem is fixed, skating will always be a battle,” Pete says. He thinks that more cities and towns should recognize the need for certain unused public spaces to be sanctioned for skating. “We’re in the process of starting a nonprofit called RIPS, which will stand for Rhode Island Public Skateparks or Revitalizing Inactive Public Spaces.”
While the group hasn’t yet settled on the antecedent of their acronym, they have solidified their objectives and cemented their goals: “We want to start small, working with neighborhood organizations to get sanctioned skate spots around the city,” Pete says. They hope to get local kids and neighbors involved in the building of these spots, lessening the likelihood for vandalization.
“We want to make them unique and artsy,” he explains, “celebrating Providence as ‘The Creative Capital.’” Once the ball has been set in motion, Pete hopes to have enough supporters so that they’re able to raise enough funds to get a concrete skate park built in Providence. “What we really need,” says Pete, “is to find a pro bono lawyer who has experience in starting nonprofits.”
Where do you skate? “I really only have time to hit parks on the weekends but during the week I skate around the neighborhood with my dog Presley. I’m a pool skater at heart, so I mostly skate transition, usually at parks or backyard bowls. Most of the spots I skate at are invite-only.”
Besides Presley, who do you skate with? “I skate with a lot of people, but mostly the 5.9 crew. We’re just a bunch of working class people who are dedicated to skating… and rock and roll.”
Is there a story behind your board? “No. I go through a board and sneakers about every two weeks, so I ride whatever is cheapest and in my size.”
Let’s talk favorites: beer, movie, clothing item, skate company & skate pro. “Budweiser, Gangs of New York, flannels, Wounded Knee and Grant Taylor.”
What’s the best skatepark within a two-hour drive? “It’s in Willimantic, Connecticut. The shade, the location (next to a river for swimming and tubing) and the variety of street and transition make it my favorite that’s near to Providence.”
Where would you like to build the PVD park? “I’d love to eventually see two concrete parks here: one on the West Side and one on the East Side. They could be linked by a skate path, maintained by RIPS. We could create a skateable art walk, sculpture path, labryinth, maze, skateable gardens… I envision a network of park, land and recreation space.”
What would building your vision do for our city? “There are public skateparks open 24 hours a day all over the globe. Ours would cater to all levels and create a sense of place for our city, maybe as a skateable anchor.
Tourism dollars… makes $ense. But won’t it be expensive to maintain? “There are ways to pay for maintenance costs. Burnside Skatepark in Portland, Oregon installed a lighting system where the public can insert dollars to control the lights.”
Skateboarding in the city has already taken a big hit with the closing of Fountain of Youth on Eddy Street. Pete says of its owner, “Donny [Barley] has done so much for skating, especially getting the skate night at the rink downtown. Now there’s no core skate shop in Providence and the kids go to Zumiez at the mall. What has Zumiez done for the city?”
If you’d like to help Pete in his endeavor to create safe skateboarding havens in the city of Providence, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.