Friends of late skater petition to rename skate park

Posted 6/21/23

Port Townsend officials are considering renaming the city’s skatebowl in honor of a beloved skateboarder who passed away in February.

Friends of Seamus Sims have petitioned the city for …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Friends of late skater petition to rename skate park


Port Townsend officials are considering renaming the city’s skatebowl in honor of a beloved skateboarder who passed away in February.

Friends of Seamus Sims have petitioned the city for the change. Sims, who died unexpectedly at the age of 41, was an early advocate for a skate park and instrumental in the push to get state funding for the project in Olympia nearly 20 years ago.

At the time, constructing a skateboard facility in Port Townsend raised worries about legal liabilities, with some saying the attraction would be a dangerous fad.

Port Townsend skaters and others lobbied forcefully for the project, which had been rejected four years earlier by the city.

The young advocates included Sims, who was skeptical the park would ever come to be. Nevertheless, he spent his teen years working tirelessly to get the skatebowl built.

In 2002, Sims accompanied Deborah Berreth, a member of the Port Townsend Park Board, to the Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation presentation in Olympia. His speech overwhelmingly convinced the committee to support the request for funding. In fact, the grant was ranked seventh out of 44 applications.

Ultimately, $200,000 was awarded.

skater stereotypes

Berreth’s own son grew up with Sims.

“There was a stigma attached to skaters at that time,” Berreth explained. “But I saw this as an opportunity to help youth who were active, just not into team sports.”

Sims was able to see his dream through to the end when he attended the park’s opening ceremony in May 2006.

The state-of-the-art skate park was designed and built by Dreamland Skateparks and included advanced deep bowls, rails, a beginner section, and even a drinking fountain. It was a victory not only for future generations to come, but Sims’ close-knit group of friends who’d stuck with him from the beginning.

“I met Seamus the first day of first grade. We were inseparable for 35 years to follow,” said Ben Early.

Around seventh grade, Sims, Early, and a few other friends Early referred to as “the old gang” discovered skating.

“Before that, we didn’t really know who we were. But once we started … oh, man. It was for us. We knew we’d found our expression,” Early said.

With the lack of a local skate park, the boys traveled around the area for places to skate, and when that wasn’t possible, made do with the pavement at Fort Worden or the parking lot on Monroe Street (which became their “inherited” space for the future park).

well-known, respected

Even though they were peers, Early always considered Sims to be like an older brother.

“He was always just so convicted,” Early remembered. “He wasn’t afraid to walk up to anyone and find common ground with them. He’d tell you the stuff no one else would, because he didn’t like to sugarcoat.”

Sims’ honesty and steady assuredness made him a good mentor to younger kids.

“He was the one that bridged the gap,” Early recalled. “He could talk with the older guys, who were always a little standoffish toward the young punks coming in. [Sims] would remind them that those guys were our future. It was our job to bring them up.”

Sims, Early, and his friends did just that. By the time they had gone to sell the skate park idea to the committee in Olympia, they were already graduating from high school and moving on with their lives.

“We were just old enough to realize we’d passed it on to the next generation. We had laid the groundwork,” Early said.

This year, a fundraiser was planned to install a bench at the skate park in Sims’ name. Early and “the old gang,” with renewed assistance from Berreth, got the gears turning at the parks department.

But Berreth had bigger plans.

“She reached out to me and asked how I felt about doing a memorial,” said Early. “This was much, much bigger than a bench — this was naming the entire park after him.”

It was no small undertaking. They combined ideas, wrote up proposals, and set a crowdfunding goal of $10,000. They met that goal almost immediately.

Early was touched at how readily the community jumped at the chance to donate.

“His reach was so infectious. I think that’s apparent in the amount of support we’ve gotten.”

Park board pitch

Berreth once again came before the park board, harkening back to the time two decades ago when she had stood in that very same spot to advocate for the skate park’s inception.

“It is our humble request that as a memorial to this incredible young man, the skate park reflect his name,” she told the board at a meeting earlier this year.

“We all know that Port Townsend is a community with a strong sense of place. The presence of the park today is a testament of the past, and those who made it happen,” Berreth added.

According to city rules, in order to rename a park after someone, that person must have been integral in its formation.

The vote earned an unanimous recommendation of “yes.”

The proposal was scheduled to be heard by the Port  Townsend City Council on June 20, after The Leader went to press.

Renaming the park is expected to cost $5,000, including a plaque and two large park signs to cover existing signage embedded in the concrete.

If approved, city staff will install the new signs in February when the name change becomes effective, due to city regulations that require any honorees to be deceased for at least a year before a landmark can be renamed in their honor.