Leesburg’s newest piece of public art not only celebrates the high-flying freedoms of skateboarding, but also will stand in testament to the value of perseverance.
The 13-foot-tall sculpture by Jeff Hall was erected at the entrance to the town’s skatepark along Catoctin Circle, and depicts seven skaters, cyclists and skateboarders in action. The project was coordinated by the town’s Commission on Public and the Friends of Leesburg Public Arts and commissioned by Doris Kidder and Barbara Wilson, and made possible by the contributions of several town businesses.
While the $10,000 project is a capstone for the town’sEric Brown Skate Plaza at Catoctin Parkthat opened in 2017, it also is a tribute to the efforts of a 15-year-old boy who led a four-and-a-half-year campaign to build the town’s first skatepark in 1998.
Brown, who returned from his home in Hawaii to attend Saturday’s dedication ceremony, recalled the frustration young skaters in town felt as police constantly chased them away from parking lots and public building. On his mother’s advice, he called his former baseball coach, Frank Buttery, who was serving on the Town Council. Soon groups of skaters and parents began filling the council chambers urged the town to help create a safe place for the sport. With the help of Jim Kershaw, the Friends of Ida Lee Park was formed and, through bake sales and battles of the bands, raised $20,000. The town government matched that amount to build the first ramps on a Catoctin Circle tennis court. When the town built a modern replacement those wooded ramps 20 years later, they named the park for the teen who convinced the community to take action.
“The moral of this story is that it doesn’t matter how young you are, how old you are—if there is something pulling, some call in your heart, instead of making excuses to not do it, make excuses to do it,” Brown said on Saturday. His likeness is included as one of the features in the sculpture.
Mayor Kelly Burk said that, like many of the public arts projects undertaken in town, this sculpture had plenty of critics.
“The idea that arts and sports can come together is something that people have been talking about forever, but there are so many skeptics on it,” she said of the public debate over placing a sculpture at the site. “Why would you put a sculpture at a skate park? Why would you do that? They’re just going to put graffiti on it,” she recalled critics saying.
“In the end, the right decision was made,” Kidder said. “Now people drive by on our main street and they see that we care about our youth, that we want the best for them and that we are a friendly place. We’re welcoming. I think is says so many wonderful things about our town.”
“This is just the beginning of something that is going to make Leesburg so special and so unique and just a wonderful place to live and to work and play,” Burk said.