Christine and Shawn Ackley with a picture of their late son, Wesley...

Christine and Shawn Ackley with a picture of their late son, Wesley Dean Ackley, at the Riverhead skate park that will be renamed for him.

Credit: James Carbone

Riverhead officials will rename a skate park in memory of a local high school graduate who recently died of cancer, years after he advocated as a teenager to keep the town from raising fees there for nonresidents.

The parents of Wesley Dean Ackley said their son, who died Jan. 24 at age 27, was at his happiest growing up while performing skateboarding tricks with his friends at what's now called Stotzky Memorial Skate Park.

"He lived here," his father, Shawn Ackley, said while standing with his wife Christine near a park ramp. "This was his thing … He got it at a young age from kids up the block, and he just went with it.”

Christine Ackley recalled her son and his friends racing to the park after school in their teen years to catch some “airtime," and how he had prepared for a handful of annual skateboarding competitions at the park that drew families and children from across Long Island.

“If he wasn’t at school or working, he was here,” the mother said, gesturing toward the ramp.

Ackley family friends Jill Lewis and Lisa Drozd asked the town board to consider renaming the park in the young man's memory on Feb. 2 — not long after he lost a battle with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that affects soft and connective tissues or bones.

Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said a dedication date for the park's renaming has yet to be set.

Motivated to help others, Ackley, who received a bachelor’s degree in human services from New York City College of Technology, later assisted less fortunate people, such as homeless people in Brooklyn, as part of his job with the nonprofit Acacia Network.

“I feel the best kind of legacy that someone can leave behind is to inspire others, and it seems very fitting for him,” Lewis, a former Riverhead deputy town supervisor, told Newsday.

Ackley’s parents said their son was deeply upset when the town in 2010, while losing money on the skate park, had considered raising fees for nonresidents to use the facility from $75 to $100.

“He didn’t think it was fair that a kid should have to pay $100 to come skate here,” Ackley's father recalled.

Wesley Dean Ackley is shown posing with his skateboard at age 14...

Wesley Dean Ackley is shown posing with his skateboard at age 14 in 2010, the year he successfully argued that fees for a Riverhead skate park shouldn't be increased.

Credit: Newsday/Ken Sawchuk

Wesley, then a ninth grader at Riverhead High School, spoke before the town board in January 2010 to ask officials not to raise the fees.

“Leasing it to a private company with higher fees would mean less kids going because of the increased prices, and more kids on the street skateboarding,” the teenager told the board.

Ultimately, the town decided against raising the fees.

As her husband’s eyes filled with tears at the park, Christine Ackley said her family was touched that the park where her son spent much of his youth soon will bear his name.

“It’s really special, heartwarming,” she said. “And it’s the town we’ve lived in for 28 years and Wes was born and raised in this town, so it means a lot.”

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