A dream at least eight years in the making broke ground in Athletic Park on Tuesday, July 10, as a couple dozen skateboarders and their supporters, city officials, construction workers and more gathered to kick off construction of Cloquet's new skatepark.
Shovel in hand and skateboard stuck in the dirt, Brady Doran said he started fundraising to bring a skatepark to Cloquet when he was 8 years old. So did Caleb Essler, Riley Into and many other kids younger and older than the trio.
All three boys will be seniors at Cloquet High School in the fall, so they've grown up with the dream of bringing a good skatepark to the city.
"There's been a lot of fundraising and community support over those eight years," said John Badger, Cloquet Parks Board member and father to skateboard enthusiast Ryan Badger. "And lot of dedication. They showed up at July Fourth festivities, sold hot dogs, pancakes, spaghetti, cookies and coffee at different times, done highway and park cleanups. A lot of area business have donated, too."
The new 6,000-square-foot park will feature quarter pipes, handrails, banked ramps, a bowl, stairs and a ledge. The Cloquet city engineer expects the park to be finished in six to eight weeks, weather permitting.
It will be a different experience to simply skateboard to a park in town to work on stunts, the boys said. As young kids, Essler said they had to convince their parents to drive them to skateparks in Duluth and Superior - even further away if they were lucky.
"Or we'd skate in town and get in trouble," Doran said with a smile.
Matt Anderson, who organized the push for a skatepark after the city closed a smaller one in Cloquet's West End, wasn't there in person Tuesday, but he was there in spirit. Now living in Madison, the Cloquet native still checks monthly with the Halls and other kids and is working with Duluth's Damage Boardshop to arrange some events once the park opens.
A few feet away from the group of seniors was a group of middle school students, including Keagan Hall. His older brother, Brady Hall, was away at camp or else he would have been at the groundbreaking with the rest of the Hall family, including parents Sean and Jen, who have been strong supporters from the start. Keagan and his buddies will be riding their scooters at the skatepark, which will also be used by BMX bike riders.
Cloquet city councilors unanimously approved construction of the skate park in April at an estimated price tag of $420,300 - more than 25 percent over the engineer's estimate - with Boldt Company the sole bidder on the project twice in a row.
The skatepark is being paid through local sales tax funds, similar to other parks projects over the past couple of years after the half-cent local sales tax was approved by voters in 2012.
Boldt Executive Vice President Shelly Peterson started informally working with the skateboarders years ago, helping them brainstorm ideas to make their dreams come true after the Halls invited her to a meeting.
Fast-forward to March 2017, when a group of skateboarders presented to her leadership group in the Cloquet office and asked for a donation. Boldt gave them $5,000 - their largest individual donation to date.
Peterson said they were impressed by the passion and the need for the project.
"When this project came out for bid, it's something that we wanted to be a part of," she said. "We thought, hey, this is a really good community project. It's an honor to be able to throw some dirt and get this thing going."
Peterson said they've contracted with experts from California Skateparks to do the "shotcrete" (versus concrete) specialty work on the skatepark bowls and other features. The company is in Minnesota for the X Games setup and will come to Cloquet for about a week in between setup and teardown in Minneapolis. Veit is a local subcontractor on the project.
The group of skateboarders pushed hard to ensure a skatepark was part of the city's plan for parks improvements, making presentations to both the Cloquet City Council and the Carlton County Board of Commissioners, as well as various community groups.
It paid off.
"I think we created a lot of change," Doran said. "The younger kids will be able to enjoy this a lot longer than we can, but that's OK."
"It's a good feeling," Into chimed in.