The grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for Branford’s new skate park in Hatch Park was held Saturday, Jan. 25, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. attracting around 100 people with high spirits. These included several members of Branford Town Council, Suwannee County commissioners, town folks, out of town folks, a few onlookers and of course some serious skateboard enthusiasts whose wait is now over since the completion of the park’s Phase 1 on Jan. 18.
According to Branford Health and Fitness owner Bill Procko, who found grants and raised money towards the park’s construction for the better part of a year, said kids were already out there taking test runs, one week prior to grand opening. He didn’t have the heart to turn them away.
Just before the ribbon cutting, Procko began by thanking those who contributed to the park’s construction, aptly named Procko Skate Park, in the way of money, service or supplies. He prefaced by apologizing for forgetting if he left someone out.
“I want to thank first and foremost the town council in Branford,” said Procko. “I can’t believe how easy it was in the time frame of less than a year when I first went before them about this project to today, to what we have right behind us. It’s just amazing.”
Some of the people he thanked included Suwannee American Cement Company for donating dirt, BP Oil and Scaff’s food stores for a $5,000 grant, The Tony Hawk Foundation for $5,000 contingent upon the preceding $5,000 to match.
“While we’re on the subject of the press which is just huge is the Suwannee Democrat which has written several articles about the process we’ve been going through that has helped us with more donations,” said Procko. “Thank you for really getting the word out about this project.”
Branford McDonald’s owner, Alison Bazan, donated $5,000 to go towards construction of Phase II. Other monetary contributors were Larry Thompson, owner of Custom Pine Straw, Branford Health and Fitness, Branford council members and several local folks. Procko wanted to thank Branford High School Dean of Students, Carl Manna and about a dozen students who came to a town council meeting months ago to show their support. They all rode several blocks from BHS to town hall on skateboards. Manna was also present that day supplying the park with music through the use of his PA system. Nell Lewis baked a huge skateboard-shaped cake for the occasion. A big thanks went to Craig Timberlake, Director of Hatch Park for his help and support and for Subway for the use of their back parking lot. Procko thanked Suwannee County Road Department for hauling the dirt to the construction site. His final thanks went to Tony Misiano and his crew for the design and construction of the park and all the sacrifices they made through it’s construction.
Procko allowed them to camp out in tents outside his house to save on motel expenses and there were times when the weather was less than favorable.
“In 20 degree temperatures sometimes and then at six in the morning, I’d look out and they’d be gone and back here,” said Procko. “They did that for three months.”
He concluded saying what a great team of guys they were to have as company and for building the park.
Just before Procko cut the ribbon, town council president Charlie Daniel thanked everyone for being there and for all their contributions. He personally thanked Procko for his seemingly tireless efforts from the very beginning through Phase one's completion. He turned it over to vice-president Ken Saunders, who, holding a wooden plaque, read,
“The Town Council of Branford, Florida, recognizes Bill & Kim Procko and family for their dedication, fundraising efforts and service toward The Branford Community Skate Park. The Branford Town Council hereby declares that this part of the Hatch Park Complex be henceforth known as Procko Skate Park, dedicated this day Jan. 25, 2014.”
Procko then cut the ribbon and the skateboarding began. Skateboarders were very courteous allowing sometimes just one to make a run or two of the course before someone else “dropped in”.
Procko said later how excited he was and also honored the park was named after his family.
When Misiano was asked about the hard work and sacrifice he and his crew endured, he said smiling, “It was all worth it.”
He said during the construction, he and crew kept thinking about “riding it” and it encouraged them to keep going to reach completion. Misiano, who’s quite an accomplished skateboarder himself could be seen that day enjoying the newly built park with a huge grin on his face.
He said a bit later, he hoped that within a few months, his crew could begin on Phase II, the Del Mar Keyhole.