Skateboard fans raising money for new skate park in CloquetIt’s going to take a lot of pancakes to build the skate park that Matt Anderson has in mind.
By: John Lundy, Forum Communications, Pine Journal
It’s going to take a lot of pancakes to build the skate park that Matt Anderson has in mind.
About 150 people attended a pancake breakfast at the Cloquet Senior Center on Saturday morning, paying $5 apiece to raise money toward a concrete skate park planned for a section of the city’s Athletic Park. If all goes well, Anderson and other members of the Cloquet Skateboard Association hope to open the skate park on about 8,000 square feet of land in fall 2013.
It’s an audacious goal, because they don’t just want a skate park. They want the Target Field of skate parks.
“There won’t be anything of its kind in this area code,” said Anderson, 22, a skateboarder since he was 10.
The featured attraction will be a bowl that emulates a swimming pool. The only bowl in the state is in Edina, Anderson said, and you have to pay to skate there. The Cloquet park will be open to the public. It also will have a full street course. With those elements, it will appeal to all kinds of skateboarders, he said. He estimates it would last through 15 northern Minnesota winters.
It also could be used by inline skaters, bikers and scooters, said Jennifer Joyce-Nemmers, 43, a self-described skater mom who is one of the effort’s leaders.
The proposed skate park’s price tag: $250,000.
Raised so far: $3,000.
The skateboard enthusiasts are working not only against a challenging financial goal, but against history. Cloquet had a skate park in Wentworth Park on the city’s west side, but officials closed it in 2007 after it developed a reputation for litter, fights and alcohol and drug violations.
Anderson was in his teens as the skate park went bad, and he saw the decision to close it coming.
“It was a bad location,” Anderson said. “It was in a desolate area. … There was very poor supervision.”
Most of the trouble came from nonskaters, he said.
“It got overrun by outside forces,” Anderson said. “It was mostly kids coming to start fights. For the most part, skaters aren’t there to start fights. They’re there to skate.”
The location at Athletic Park, on busy 14th Street near the heart of town, will be much more favorable, Anderson and Joyce-Nemmers say. It’s a multipurpose park in a residential setting. That draws a variety of people from a variety of age groups. It’s the kind of setting that’s a proven deterrent to troublemakers, Joyce-Nemmers said.
City government is supportive, Joyce-Nemmers said. The city is the fiscal agent for the skateboard association, and funding for the skate park will be one of the beneficiaries if Cloquet voters approve a half-cent sales tax in the fall.
Meanwhile, the skateboard association also is making its first attempts at seeking grants to support the project.
Anderson, who wore a gray hoodie over neatly cropped hair on Saturday, admitted he hasn’t gotten much help from his age group. “A lot of kids my age have moved away, or they’ve gotten interested in other things,” he said. “It has been hard to find support among the young adult community.”
Instead, Anderson has found himself as a sort of guru to skateboarders 10 years younger than himself. On Saturday after the pancake breakfast, he was handing out trash bags to a handful of boys who proceeded to remove litter from Athletic Park.
When he has days off from his night-shift work in a group home, Anderson easily can go other places for skateboarding. But he’s passionate about bringing a skate park back to Cloquet.
“I’ve been skateboarding since I was 10 years old,” he said. “I care about the old skate park that we had and miss it dearly. I believe every community deserves a quality skate park, even in areas where there’s not many kids skating, and even where there are harsh winters.”
He knows the old park left a bad taste, but he exudes confidence that all of the obstacles can be overcome.
“It will be a much more positive place, a vibrant location for the community and skaters alike,” Anderson said. “We are prepared for those negative preconceptions, and we know we can change their minds.”