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Local skateboard enthusiasts (above) wait for the start of the July 4 parade last year.

Have skateboard, must travel

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In last week’s issue: 

A group of skateboard enthusiasts and supporters, known as the Carlton County Skatepark Association, has been working since 2010 to get a skatepark in Cloquet. The drive started following the dismantling of a previous skatepark — basically a repurposed tennis court with added ramps — due to an issue with illegal activities occurring at the park.

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Since 2010, the CCSA have not only involved themselves within the city through volunteering, they have also held 16 fundraisers earning a total of $3,000; they have participated in four Cloquet parades with no fewer than 25 skaters, and they have volunteered in several of the city parks.

While members of the Cloquet Parks Commission said they would be supportive of a proper skate park, the key is that the CCSA needs to come up money that the city would match (if the council approved it). To build the $250,000 park the CCSA members dream of, they’re going to have to raise a lot more money.

Added to that is the fact that the proposed skate park is mentioned in the city’s new Master Parks Plan, but it doesn’t actually have a home on the plan. It’s just an idea that could be located at one of Cloquet’s many parks. CCSA members also are hoping the city would be willing to spend some of the local sales tax money on a new skate park.

This week we find out how Superior created a successful skate park and why it’s important to CCSA members that we do something similar in Cloquet.

A youth movement In an interview with four of Cloquet’s skateboarding youth — CMS seventh-graders Ryan Badger, Brady Hall, Riley Into and Nick Pfisthner — enthusiasm for the sport was bursting. Their skate group consists of about eight kids of similar age who branch from a much larger and growing group. Although not close friends, the larger group shares a bond as they see each other skating in different spots throughout the area.

“There’s like an unwritten code of respect for skaters,” Badger said. “You can’t hang out with everyone, but you see the same people around skating and it forms a sort of community.”

The four have been skateboarding for an average of three years and said it’s their favorite activity, although not the only one. Three of the four also play basketball and two play football. They also have volunteered alongside Anderson and very much consider themselves a part of the CCSA.

Graham Bradley of the Journal of Adolescent Research and author of “Skate Parks as a Context for Adolescent Development,” found that in 2008 there was an estimated 15 million skateboarders within the United States. Of these 15 million, 93 percent are under the age of 24. Moreover, of the 300 million U.S. citizens, 80 million are between the ages of 5 and 24.

What this data illustrates is that one in every six of our nation’s youth are skateboarders. It is very much a growing sport. Of Cloquet’s 12,000 residents there are 3,200 youth between the ages of 5 and 24. Bradley’s numbers would suggest there are roughly 500 skateboarders within the 3,200 youth in Cloquet.

“A more realistic figure is 300 skateboarders within Cloquet’s border, but when you consider the neighboring cities such as Carlton and Esko, the number of skaters nudges closer to the 500 mark and is constantly growing,” said Matthew Q. Anderson, a skater of 20-plus years who leads the CCSA group.

Like building a tree fort or taking apart the lawn mower, youth — especially in groups — pursue their interests with a relentless force. As skateboarding progresses so does the urge to build personal ramps out of spare plywood and 2x4 boards laying behind the garage. This has become a major aspect of skateboarding culture.

“Street skating around Cloquet and making our own stuff to skate on is definitely the majority of our skateboarding,” Nick Pfisthner said.

Pfisthner, Into, Hall, and Badger all agreed that they’d do whatever it takes to achieve a skate park in Cloquet before they graduate from high school.

“Superior’s park is ‘sick’ [wonderful], but with none of us having our license it’s hard to get there on a regular basis,” Hall said.

On a given day in the summer months you can see anywhere from five to 50 skaters at Superior’s skate park. On special event days like the nationwide “Go Skate Day,” Superior’s skate park will see 100 or more skaters.

Despite the fact that snow makes it impossible to skateboard, the four keep their skateboarding legs fresh at Duluth’s indoor skatepark, The Encounter.

“It’s worth the $8, especially because it’s not an everyday thing,” Into said.

Why not here? Superior’s jewel of a skate park, cherished by skaters from near and far, was built in 2000. Mary Morgan of Superior’s Parks and Recreation credited a driven youth assisted by a few, very astute adults for the campaigning, designing, and proposal of their skate park.

Starting in 1998, a group of 100 of Superior’s youth began voicing their passion for skateboarding as well as their concern for a more youth-friendly city. With help from parents, the group of skateboarders wrote a proposal that included statistics, cost analysis, community benefits, and a design concept. After Superior’s Parks and Recreation Commission reviewed the proposal in February 2000, it was unanimously approved. Within a year excavators broke ground and the skate park was on its way.

The park was built in four separate stages and combined both vert-style and street-style courses. Vert-style courses include ramps that are built for skateboards, such as a half-pipe. Street-style courses mimic public infrastructure such as stair wells and handrails. The park is open to skateboarders, freestyle roller-bladers, as well as BMX bikers.

The total cost of the park was $300,000. The skateboarding youth and parents raised $40,000 and the county agreed to pay $50,000. The remaining two-thirds was paid for by the citizens of Superior through the approval of an increased sales tax by Superior’s City Council for the improvement of city parks.

Anderson points out that $250,000 divided by the 5,000 households within Cloquet equals out to a $50 contribution from every household.

“A $50 donation from each of Cloquet’s households would easily fund our dream, although this is not a very realistic proposition, it is something we [CCSA] tell ourselves to keep motivated,” Anderson said as he planned yet another fundraiser at Pizza Hut on Feb. 7. “With the right community support, the Cloquet skate park is a very reachable goal.”

For the past several years, Anderson has been the voice of and the driving force behind the movement to build a skate park in Cloquet. Without younger people replenishing the courage, will, and action it takes to keep a sport or movement alive, that sport will dissipate into history. This is something Anderson is very aware of, though not fearful. The fact is, skateboarding is a growing sport both internationally and within the borders of Cloquet. The problem is that these young athletes have nowhere to practice.

“Having your own place to practice comes with a sense of pride and independence — something my friends and I had with the skate park at Wentworth,” Anderson said. “Building a skate park in Cloquet is important to me because the youth in our town need a place to recreate.”

Street skating is something the skateboarding youth of Cloquet resort to when the rail or the plywood ramp set up in the driveway gets old. Skaters target staircases, handrails, and ledges around town, which is — more often than not — frowned upon by various business owners whose property becomes a jungle gym.

“We try and find a place where no one will kick us out, but it’s the getting kicked out of everywhere that gives skateboarders a bad reputation. We aren’t trying to wreck anyone’s property — we’re just doing what we love where we can, while we can, even if it’s for just a few minutes and we move onto the next place,” Into said.

A skate park in Cloquet offers a safe and controllable site where skateboarders are allowed to practice without bothering fellow citizens or breaking the law.

“Building a park in Cloquet is important to me because I believe everyone has a hobby and most people have a place to go, hang out, and practice that hobby, but we don’t. There are a lot of skaters in Cloquet and many more to come, plus anyone who rides a scooter, roller blades, or bikes will have a place to go too!” Into said.

To donate to the CCSA or to request volunteers from the club or find out more, visit www.cloquetskatepark.com or email qmanderson13@gmail.com. The group also has a Facebook page at “Cloquet Needs a Skatepark” as well as information on the Community Education website.

Pine Journal Editor Jana Peterson contributed to this story.

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