by Joni Astrup
Four University of Minnesota engineering students are pooling their talents to design a new skate park for Elk River.
Civil engineering students Jason Tschida of Woodbury, Alexandra Miller of Rochester, Lydia Larson of Plymouth and Abdiwali Osman, an American citizen who is originally from Somalia, are designing the skate park as part of their senior design class.
“We chose this project from a wide range of them, so we’re all really excited to be here, doing this,” Miller told the Elk River Parks and Recreation Commission recently.
They plan to bring their design ideas to the commission in April.
There had been a skate park at Lions Park in Elk River since 2004, but that was dismantled last year after its condition had deteriorated.
Dave Anderson, chair of the Elk River Parks and Recreation Commission, called the design process for a new one a “necessary step.” Once a design concept is identified, Anderson said cost estimates can be produced and then they could look at ways to fund the project to turn the design into reality.
He said the engineering students are putting features in a skate park that a local skateboard group wants, and that the community could hopefully some day afford.
Anderson believes the preferred location for a new skate park would be Orono Park, but said that would have to be recommended by the parks and recreation commission and approved by the City Council before anything could be built there.
The engineering students are working with local skateboarders in the design process.
The two groups brainstormed about ideas for a new skate park during a meeting March 12 at Elk River City Hall. Ryan Toth was one of the skateboarders who participated.
He said later that he has been pleased with the engineering students’ work on the project.
“I feel like we’re really making a lot of progress,” he said. They worked through a design that night that everyone liked, he said.
Kris Turner is another skateboarder who was at the meeting. He described the design they came up with as a “dream park” that is optimal. He looks for the engineering students to propose a “budget park” as well.
Skateboarders are providing some practical advice in the process.
“We’re trying to make sure it’s rideable and that it has flow,” Turner explained.
Turner, 30, of Monticello, has been skateboarding since he was 10. He said when Elk River’s skate park was first built it was the best in the area and people came from all over to use it.
“I grew up in Elk River and I know what it was like before we had the park and I know what it was like after and it was just night and day. To have one again would be a big difference,” he said.
Now his main options are Maple Grove and St. Cloud and, for indoor skateboarding, 3rd Lair in Golden Valley.
Toth also likes the skate park at Maple Grove. A senior at Elk River High School, he has been skateboarding since he attended a camp at about age 10.
Toth believes Elk River will eventually have a skate park of its own again, but said it will take a lot of time because skate parks aren’t cheap.
“But we’re always going to be backing this,” he said. “We’re not going to let it go.”
Curt Hinkle, the Young Life director in Elk River, attended the brainstorming session and feels there should be a skate park available.
“There’s a whole segment of kids that use this,” he said.
Hinkle also is a civil engineer who is helping mentor the engineering students. The other mentors are Jim Nystrom, a civil engineer; John Kallemeyn, a chemical engineer; and Anderson, a chemist. Nystrom serves on the parks and recreation commission with Anderson. Additionally, all four have ties to Cretex in Elk River as either current or former employees.
Anderson said this is the fifth time they have mentored a group of engineering students working on a local project.