That all changed when nearly 50 skaters, officials and residents showed up to the new Cloquet skatepark's grand opening celebration Sunday, Oct. 14.
The new 6,000-square-foot park was recently finished after nearly eight years of advocacy work on the part of local skateboarding enthusiasts. The park features quarter pipes, handrails, stairs and banked ramps, as well as a ledge for skaters and BMX and Razor scooter riders to enjoy.
Even better for locals, the new location at 420 14th St. means many users can walk or skate to the new park.
A smaller skate park in Cloquet's Wentworth Square closed in 2010. Carlton County native Matthew Anderson almost immediately swung into action with an effort to get a new facility built. He joined the Cloquet Parks Commission, lobbied furiously for a new park to be built and engaged young skaters in the cause.
"In 2010, after our skatepark was torn down, I took it on myself to serve on the parks board and organize fundraisers," Anderson said. "I did that for a solid four years, where I was mobilizing young skaters in the community and my peers, along with the city and a lot of parents."
Anderson, 29, spend most of his early 20s organizing and building an advocacy group to build a new park in the heart of Cloquet. When he moved to Madison, Wis., in 2015, Anderson said he left behind a strong organization that continued the work he started.
"The advocacy group was able to take it from there, and there was enough momentum behind them where the city took it seriously," he said.
The group was told it would be an uphill battle to get a new skatepark built in Cloquet, but its advocates kept working, eventually convincing the city there was merit to building a new $420,000 park. The park was funded through the local half-cent sales tax approved by voters six years ago.
Anderson acknowledged some problems with the old park, including the location away from some residential neighborhoods of Cloquet, and said it was a challenge to convince city officials the new park wouldn't suffer the same fate as the one in Wentworth Square.
"It was just kind of a poor location, where it was away from other parts of the city," Anderson said. "It allowed for people who were non-skaters to come there and cause trouble and it kind of left a bad taste in the city's mouth."
Brady Hall, a senior at Cloquet High School, has worked since he was about 10 years old with Anderson to get the park built. Hall and his friends presented their plans to the Cloquet City Council and The Boldt Company, which was among the toughest parts of the process for him.
The new facility is just a couple of blocks from Hall's house, making it much easier for him and his friends to make their way over to the skatepark, even for just a few minutes.
"It's awesome and seeing all the little kids using it, too, and having a good time is cool," Hall said. "I like how smooth everything is and how there's a flow through it. You can do a trick and then turn around in the quarter pipe and do another one."