July 7, 2010

City meets with BMXers, skateboarders to plot future of skateboard

City parks officials met with skateboard park users Wednesday to talk about short and long-term changes to the park.

With scooters and BMX bikes flying around him, Tom Molbeck, manager of recreation and cultural services for the city, and other parks employees stood in the middle of the skate park and talked about moving ramps, tearing down fences and maintaining one of the city's most heavily used parks.

Molbeck was joined by Duncan Cortez, youth services coordinator for the city, and TJ Hearn, an intern who has been gathering input from people who use the park. They were joined by long-time volunteer Kuko Padilla and Dave Namowicz, who helped create the skateboard park 12 years.

The productive meeting is expected to lead to an annual maintenance plan and a five-year plan for the park.

(Photo-right: Tom Molbeck, middle, meets with city staff and skateboard park users about changes to the park.)

Padilla, who has done much of the work on the park over the last decade, said he was happy with the meeting and the city's involvement in making improvements.

A few changes being considered include:

  • Removing fences on the east and west sides to generally make the area more attractive and to cut down on maintenance costs 
  • Rework the southwest corner of the park to create another area for skateboarders. The ramps there now don't quite flow like the original design had hoped. 
  • This summer the city plans to fix cracks in the skating surface, and Gateway Technical College has people lined up to paint the ramps. 
  • Long-term, Padilla and others would like to look at expanding the park into open space along the west end of the park. There's grass there now, but it's unclear who owns the land.
  • Add more ramps for younger skaters to learn on. 
  • Add a soda and/or juice machine outside of the skate park. 
Molbeck said he was impressed by the kids and adults who use the skateboard park. Not only are they great athletes, but they take care of each other and the park. During the meeting, older users said they wanted to make sure younger skaters had a place to practice and develop skills. 

Molbeck said the 5-year plan was meant to bring a little more attention inside of City Hall to the skateboard park. 

"It want it to be on the map," he said. 

Quite possibly the only person in Racine wearing a winter cap on Wednesday.

For Namowicz, Wednesday's meeting was just a reaffirmation of the efforts he pulled together 12 years ago to turn old, unused tennis courts into a safe place to skate, bike and hang out. 

Standing in the park, Namowicz recalled 200 volunteers gathering on the courts to help build the ramps, which were paid for with $135,000 in grants from local foundations and businesses.

Namowicz, who is president of Warren Industries, got involved in the project because his son was an inline skater. At the time skaters didn't have anywhere to go, and some got in trouble with police. Tapping his business experience, Namowicz organized a community effort to win approval for the park and build it from the ground up. 

Seeing a new generation of kids and adults using the park and trying to make it better made, Namowicz said it was worthwhile. 

"This is a great group of kids who care about each other," he said. 

If you're looking to checkout the skateboard park, there are a couple of upcoming events:

July 24 is the city's 11th annual Lake F/X Games from noon to 4 p.m. Skateboard competitions will run from noon to 2 p.m. and BMX competition will run from 2-4 p.m. 

Participants will compete, and be judged, in four age groups: 11 and under, 12 - 14, 15 -17, and 18 & up. Awards will be presented to the top four finishers in each age group. Participants may register at the event. Minors must have a parent present to register. The registration fee is $5 and includes a competition t-shirt.

Helmets are required to participate!

The Lake F/X Games are co-sponsored by Gateway Technical College, The Friday Optimist Club, Sky High Skate Shop and Racine Cyclery.

Also, Aug. 28 will be Padilla's annual summer-end jam. The annual day-long event includes riding, food and live music.