by Jim Boyle
Skate board enthusiasts have made strides toward their dream of replacing a former skate park in Elk River that had to be dismantled for safety reasons.
Members of the Elk River Park and Recreation Commission agreed last week to seek out a new location for a skate park, and the skate board community was asked to come up with a design for a park.
“You’ll have to help us figure out where the money will come from,” Dave Anderson, the chair of the commission, said.
There are already some ideas circulating, like one to pursue a Tony Hawk Foundation grant. Elk River Parks Director Michael Hecker told commissioners a grant such as that requires a location be identified and secured.
The old skate park, which was tucked behind churches, apartments and a hill in Lion’s Park, was torn down this past fall after it had become difficult to repair and increasingly dangerous. Skateboarders are interested in a new location, one that’s more visible than the previous one that was plagued by vandals.
Jake Ruprecht, 20, got the discussion rolling when he presented his vision for the park and the community of skateboarders at the March 20 Park and Rec meeting. He had contacted Elk River City Planner Chris Leeseberg about his ideas and desire for a collaborative effort.
Ruprecht said he had heard about the skate park being torn down and the possibility it wouldn’t be replaced, and he decided to see about creating the change he would like to see. He and a group of skateboard enthusiasts filled the seats of the council chambers at Elk River City Hall. Ruprecht has more than quarter pipes and rails on his mind, though.
“I’d like to see the (skate) park rebuilt as a welcoming place for all generations to come together, fellowship and learn and grow from one another,” he told park commissioners. “I can’t do life without older people and younger people.”
Ruprect told the commission different generations don’t always move past their differences.
“That’s the way our generations are sometimes,” Ruprecht said. “I really believe once we get to know each other, every generation has something beautiful to offer.”
Ruprecht suggested the younger generation should lean on the older generation for wisdom, and the older generation should see the enthusiasm, fresh ideas and excitement from the younger generation.
“I’d like to restore a culture of honor,” Ruprecht said. “I don’t want (the skate park) to be just for skaters.”
Park Commissioner Mike Niziolek asked, if the city came up with a location, would Ruprecht and others pursue the grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation. The answer from Ruprecht and those in the audience was yes.
Anderson said he liked the group’s enthusiasm, but he cautioned them that this project, if successful, will take time.
“I know first-hand what it takes to get (park projects done),” said Anderson, who has championed many park projects and improvements. “Some things get done in a week. Others things get done in a generation.”
Skateboarders in attendance asked to be included in the communication.
“This is my first meeting, and I would like to come to more to plan a new skate park,” said one of the speakers. “We’d like to be updated. It would help us knowing what we could do to help you.”
That can be facilitated through the commission’s representative, when time allows, on the volunteer skate park committee, Anderson said.
“We have had some discussion, but no firm discussion of a firm selection of a site,” Anderson said. “There are some adjacent sites to the Orono Park site. Not with trees, but they can be planted and will grow.”
Anderson urged the group in attendance to stay as active as they can in this effort and to keep pushing. “If you all go away, come summer, this is not going to happen,” he said.
Anderson said, six years ago, the city of Elk River had money for parks, but it has been spent, and there’s not a lot of new money coming in for parks.
“You can’t give up,” he said. “It’s not going to be a short haul. It’s going to be a long haul.”
He said there are people and businesses in the community that will help when the time comes, but they won’t be at meetings.