Worthington skateboarders hopeful for new park
Local skateboarders look to revamp the current skatepark, nearly 20 years after its construction.
WORTHINGTON — Worthington’s skate park has sat largely unchanged since its construction nearly 20 years ago, but it could get an upgrade if local skateboarders can secure funding to breathe new life into the space.
The only skate park in Worthington, the current park consists of a collection of structures — including quarter pipe ramps and grind rails — that sit on a slab of concrete along the walking path near the Centennial Park water tower. It’s not uncommon to see skateboarders attempting tricks on the ramps on sunny days, but even when the weather permits, the park poses challenges.
“I know probably three people who can actually skate the park really well,” said Erick Rivera, a local skateboarder who is advocating for updates to the park. “But for most people, it’s not really easy. It’s a hard park to learn on and hard to skate well.
According to Rivera, between the steep cut of the ramps, the cramped layout, and the lack of variety, there are a lot of shortcomings to the prefabricated skate park. He points at the concrete pad the park sits on, which sports more than one crack. The rough texture is hard on equipment and wears down the skateboard wheels, and is even harder on the body when skaters take a tumble.
“When you get hurt, you don’t want to come back,” said Edgar Padilla Garcia, another skater, noting he had a hard time staying motivated when he first took up skateboarding, due to the challenges the park presented. “The park could have more kids, I think if it was a little more friendly to beginners — and bigger.”
The size of the park is a concern, both skaters agree. On a busy day, they have to be extra cautious about younger kids on the equipment and take care not to crash into one another with the way the park is laid out.
“You want to make things as safe as you can,” Rivera said, looking over the existing structures. He describes his “dream park” as having good lighting and plenty of space, with obstacles for all skill levels. Now, skaters in Worthington will go wherever they can find the obstacles, like the stairs by the Nobles County Government Center or the space by the Worthington Fire Hall, a conflict that would be alleviated if they had more available at the skate park.
“Variety is great,” Rivera added. “A skate park should be for everyone to enjoy.”
They’re some of the same aspects he brought to Todd Wietzema, Worthington’s Public Works Director, on a trifold board alongside a list of the issues with the current park.
Much like the efforts on behalf of Worthington’s skateboarders today, the skate park was built after a group of local skateboarders began to advocate for the building of a skatepark in Worthington, back in the early 2000s.
Costing a total of $32,743 and secured through a series of grants, donations, and city funding, the skate park’s concrete pad, and equipment were in place by 2003. Today, with most skateparks being fully concrete, the costs have increased substantially.
“We’re in the very beginning stages, so we're not sure what we're doing quite yet, but I want to put in something that’s going to get used,” Wietzema said. “From a city standpoint, I always want to see our facilities upgraded to the best of our abilities.”
By 2023, Wietzema notes the city will have set aside $30,000 to go toward the skate park — funds originally reserved for the necessary maintenance costs. It’s only a portion of the funding necessary to build a new skate park and fully address the concerns Rivera and other skaters have, but Wietzema is willing to see where this goes.
“We’re looking for the same involvement from the skateboarders now,” said Wietzema. “If they can help raise funds and tell us what we need, we love to work with groups like this. If we can get grants and help with funding these things, we’re more than happy to build them.”
It’s a situation not unique to Worthington, and one that Minnesota skateboarding enthusiasts hope will be addressed through the Minnesota Skate Park Grant program — if the program can secure the support it needs to be included in the 2022 bonding bill.
“There's always been a really strong skateboard culture here (in Minnesota),” said Paul Forsline with City of Skate, a public skate parks advocacy group. “Unfortunately, it hasn't had a great public infrastructure to support it.”
Modeled after the Mighty Ducks grant program, this grant will be dedicated to the construction and renovation of skate parks, through matching funds available at three different levels.
Of the $15 million the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission is hoping to secure, $8 million would be designated towards funding community parks, with up to $350,000 available in matching funds for grantees.
The program received $250,000 in bonding funds during the 2020 legislative session, not nearly enough for the list of over 30 skate park projects being considered in Minnesota cities. The full funding would allow for at least 25 different grants, according to Forsline.
“We’re trying to hopefully show these communities that it's OK to spend more on a skate park. If you build it well, it can be one of the most used spaces in a community,” Forsline said. “It's really a rallying point with a lot of value, especially when you can get to the point where it's really a multi-generational thing, with all sorts of people taking part.”
While this grant program is the first of its kind, Forsline said they’ve seen a lot of interest from other states, and that Minnesota has a chance to really grow the skateboarding world, should the program receive funding.
“I hope senators and legislators really take note of what this means for communities and their youth and advocate for this bill,” Forsline said. “Your community is asking for it, they see the need, and I hope they take the opportunity to follow through.”