Funding could be a snag for proposed Lead skate park

This photo shows an example of the type of skate park city officials and residents are considering. Funding is an issue, and community members are working on building a team of volunteers who can help solicit donations. Courtesy photo

LEAD — Finding the funding to revamp Lead’s skate park could be a challenge, but City Administrator Mike Stahl and a group of community members said they are committed to exploring options for the project.

Preliminary research into building a new skate park that is equipped with concrete features that will last longer and provide a safer, smoother skating experience began last October. Back then Stahl reminded the commission of $39,000 that Kiewit Alberici Joint Venture had committed to contributing toward resurfacing the skate park. The contribution was part of an agreement with the city that allowed the company to use the surrounding area as lay-down space during the conveyor belt construction phase. Stahl proposed putting the money for the skate park in escrow, while the city researched options for developing a new, state-of-the-art facility.

Since then, Stahl said Pioneer reports sparked public interest about the project, and many skate park users contacted him to provide input about the best way to build the facility.

“What we have down there are ramps and rails and boxes, and all tricks,” Stahl said. “They don’t want tricks. They want constant movement. Everybody wants something where you can jump off a ledge and use your momentum to just go.”

A popular model for this kind of skate park is a concrete, bowl-shaped area, with little or no obstructions. Christian Baird, who along with other interested members of the community has met with the city several times to provide input and plan for the park, said the new model is also more conducive to kids’ new skating equipment.

“Skateboard parks have evolved a lot,” Baird said. “The skateboarders have gotten older and some of the users are varied. Now we’ve got little guys on their scooters, you know. They can’t use big ramps. Parks are getting away from ramps and rails and jumps so much to the point where now they are just doing bowls that allow more flow.

“What’s great about them too is that they look incredibly clean and they’re easy to maintain,” Baird continued. “There are no more kids hiding behind the ramp to do shady things. It’s all wide open.”

But curved concrete is expensive, and Stahl said when he began researching costs he discovered the project would be significantly more expensive than originally anticipated. Two companies who design and build skate parks gave estimates between $250,000 to $300,000 for building a bowl-shaped facility in the current skate park location.

“I’m worried about it,” Stahl told the commission on Tuesday. “I’m worried about funding. There are still grants that we can go after. But I just wanted to let you know that this may be disappointing and we may not be able to do what we want to do. I’m gonna keep plugging away, but that type of concrete is very expensive.”

But Stahl remained optimistic that there could be funding sources available for the park, especially since it is a small area.

Baird, who has been raising money for skate parks since he was 12 years old and who was heavily involved in the fundraising effort to build the Spearfish Skate Park, said he is looking for volunteers to help him raise money for a new facility Lead can be proud of. Baird said he is working with the Northern Hills Recreation Association to use their non-profit status as an umbrella to raise money for the cause. He’s also working on putting together a packet to solicit concrete donations from a company in Rapid City.

“The funding is going to be a huge hurdle,” Baird said. “He (Stahl) kind of sunk my battleship when he said he has $40,000 for a park. There are awesome skateboard parks in the smallest of towns all over Northern Montana. They’re communities that don’t have any kind of big money. I know we can get some support.”

Another consideration, Baird said, was an intriguing suggestion that came from a parent at one of the initial skate park meetings. The parent suggested moving the park to the sand volleyball courts, to allow more space for more users and improve safety in the park.

“If you send a kid down that hill on a scooter, they can’t slow down,” Baird said, referring to Washington and lower Main Streets, which intersect where the current park is located. “There’s hardly any parking down there and it’s almost like pushing kids aside into a corner. The parent at this meeting said the sand volleyball courts only get used one time a year and if they used that space she could be at the playground with her other kid while her son could easily skateboard down the sidewalk to the park. It blew my mind because I thought that’s a great location where it could be a proud cornerstone in our community.”

But, Baird acknowledged that building a larger skate park would cost significantly more money. With funding at a daunting level right now, he said beggars can’t be choosers. His goal, he said, is to help provide a safe and enjoyable space for skaters to enjoy.

“I want a really great park because I know it will be a massive draw from all over the Black Hills, and people would come from other states if we could build something that was legitimate,” he said. “A really nice skateboard park is something that a kid can do who maybe doesn’t even have $100. He can buy a board and he can ride it until he’s a professional. You can’t do that skiing or snowboarding or mountain biking. You need big bucks! We’re not the richest town, but I would love to have an outlet for anybody and everyone to use.”  

For more information about how to get involved with the effort to raise money for a skate park in Lead call Baird at 801-910-6388, or visit a Facebook page created to support the effort at https://www.facebook.com/groups/294957475190743.

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