Build It and They Will Come

Sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness than for permission. The crew building the Flossie DIY Skatepark in Springfield shows us why. 

When The Block Skate Shop first discovered the empty space, they knew just the guy for the job. They dropped a pin for Cam McEachin, and he threw a few obstacles in to test the water. Since then, it’s blossomed into something truly beautiful. What was a dilapidated tennis court has now been turned into a skate plaza that is already churning out the skaters of tomorrow. Starting in the dog days of 2020 when pandemic anxiety was at an all time high, the space gave refuge to local kids cast aside by the school closures and shelter-in-place orders.  

If you’ve been to the spot, you know Mel Mccarthy. Even though he’s only skated for less than a year, the 9-year-old is on his way to becoming an icon at the park. He’s already learned kickflip to fakie, and his favorite trick is slappy crook.

“At first I wasn’t really interested. I had come up here to play basketball when they first put it in and people would lend me their skateboard to just rip around, and after about two weeks of coming up here [Cam] gave me my first board,” McCarthy said. “It’s a really good community. There’s really never any arguing. There’s only peace, love and friendship.” 

Mel is just one of the many kids who have benefited from the build. On any given day, at any time, you can roll by the flat and see The Locals on their turf. The Locals, as they’ve been dubbed by the builders, are a crew of kids who live in the neighborhood and have no problem telling you to get out their way. Most of these kids are still riding the first board they ever stepped on. The Block and local organizations like Keep It Rolling have collectively put nearly 160 boards in kids’ hands for free. A multitude of events have been held at the spot. 

“One day, before we had permission from the city, like six cop cars pulled up and were watching us build. When I approached them to talk, they said that it was really cool what we were doing and how we were probably saving a lot of kids’ lives down the road by building this in Springfield,” recalled McEachin. 

Skateboarding can have a lasting positive impact on young kids; many believe that pushing four wheels is a fountain of youth. Many of The Locals are already talking about aspirations of professional contracts and take deep inspiration from the heavies who roll through the spot like Mike Peterson, Greg Harbor and Damon Francisco.

Despite the park being built without permission from the city, the Parks and Recreation Department has fully embraced the project. They recognize how perfect the location is and the positivity it’s already pumping into the local community. Skaters from around the country have rolled through the fences, in turn, bringing economic prosperity to an area in dire need of a boost. 

“Eventually, Jill with Parks and Recreation contacted The Block about it, and they went and walked around the build to show that everything was safe. Now it’s protected, and we can build there as long as we hit her up and keep documenting everything built,” McEachin said.

Flossie is a skateable gallery of hand-formed, concrete art pieces. The features range from a 12-foot-long, solid concrete curb—that required a moving crew of 11 men and a forklift—to an iconic spine made out of a recycled basketball hoop. Though some might consider the place crusty, the park is perfectly eclectic thanks to the creative minds that have come together to make it happen. Each build day dozens of people show up to help, but there is a core group that puts in the majority of the grunt work: Joseph Garrett and Willy Beeman are just two who pour their sweat into the obstacles. 

Flossie isn’t the first DIY skate plaza in Jacksonville, however. Small squads of stoked individuals have been laying concrete all over the city for decades. There is a laundry list of renegade spots around the city like … well, we don’t need to name them. IFYKYK. Many holes in Jax’s sprawling landscape are filled with Bondo, concrete and steel. With so much forgotten real estate, there are plenty of opportunities to build something perfectly unique to any style of skating, and DIY is one of the best ways to repurpose those spaces into something beneficial for the community. 

Like most DIYs, every feature that has been built at Flossie has been crowdfunded, and there is no plan of slowing down with talk of bigger features like bowl corners and long quarter pipes. If you’re looking to get involved, go chat with the guys at The Block about the best way to get in the mix. 

About Vincent Dalessio

Vincent Dalessio is Folio Weekly’s Head Photographer and Writer. Originally from St. Petersburg, Florida, he takes pride in resetting his roots in Duval County. Active in the skateboarding, surfing, rock climbing and outdoor recreation communities, he takes what he’s learned in his personal life and applies it to current issues facing these groups. His writing focuses on the environment, socio-demographic issues, biopics on community figureheads and stories on the communities he spends the most time in.