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Main City Park selected for skate park

The Gresham Skatepark Committee hopes to have a skatepark built in Main City Park by the end of 2009.
by: John Klicker, Gresham's Ric Catron points to the spot in Main City Park where the city would like to put a skate park.

Gresham may be Oregon's fourth largest city, but when it comes to designating space for its growing posse of skateboarders, this city is getting its backside kicked by the little kids.

Newberg, Tualatin and Lincoln City don't even come close to Gresham in size or population, but they've all managed to build popular skate parks.

Now it's Gresham's turn.

'We've been looking at this for years,' says Ric Catron, a park planner for the city's Parks and Recreation Department. 'But the only way this will fly is if it's supported by the community.'

Catron is the city liaison to the Gresham Skatepark Committee, a group that includes professional skateboarder Caz Helmstetter, several business owners and even a Gresham Police officer.

The committee toured Gresham earlier this summer looking for a good skate park site.

After looking at places like Vance Park off 181st Avenue and the future site of the Gradin Community Sports Park near Palmquist Road, the committee selected Gresham's Main City Park for a future skate park.

Main City Park has a lot going for it, Catron says - it's close to public transportation, visible from a major road, has good parking and has room to grow. It also has a spot that Catron describes as 'perfect for a skate park.'

The most likely home for Gresham's first major skate park (the city built a small skate park near Davis Elementary School in 1995), sits on the western edge of Main City Park between the Chevron gas station and the Little League baseball field.

Laid bare after the Baptist Church burned to the ground two years ago, the space is city-owned, flat and just waiting to be developed.

'This would be a great site,' Catron says. 'I mean, really, what else are we going to do with it? The baseball folks would like to see more parking, but we're already putting more parking at the other end of the park, near the trail.'

Now that they've got a site, all the group needs is some more community support.

If the committee can raise money to jump-start the project, the city of Gresham has tentatively designated money from system development charges for a skate park in its 2008-09 and 2009-10 budgets.

Catron hopes to have a fully functioning skate park inside Main City Park by Christmas 2009.

That would make a lot of local skaters happy.

According to a 2000 report from the National Sporting Goods Association, for children ages 6 to 17, skateboarding is more popular than baseball, and, yet, cities like Gresham and Portland offer far more baseball fields than skateparks. The group Skaters for Portland Skateparks points out that Portland has 193 municipally supported baseball fields and only one skate park.

'Skateboarding isn't a subculture anymore,' Catron says. 'It's mainstream. Most of the skaters I've met are really good people. They monitor each other at the parks … and they just need a safe place to skate.'