City council dedicates property to the ongoing effort to bring youths a skate park

by: Photo By Troy Foster - Dave Bell is pleased with the property on the corner of H and Marshall streets the city council recently committed to the skate park committee.

News Editor
   March 26, 2003 — Since the effort first got going, it’s been all about the kids.
    Problem was, in Dave Bell’s mind, some of the original Madras skate park proponents had lost their wheels.
    “My oldest son has outgrown this since I started,” Bell said. “It’s cars now, not skateboards.”
    But the Madras City Council recently breathed new life into the languishing project by committing a piece of land on the corner of H and Marshall streets to the loose-knit skate park committee.
    The group, whose unofficial membership has fluctuated since the idea was born in late 2000, now has five years to make something out of the land designated to be a future skate park. The property is large enough to accommodate a 12,000-square-foot skate course, along with restrooms, parking and picnic facilities.
    “As far as the ability to move forward, this is really what we needed,” said Bell, a father of a 15-year-old skater and 17-year-old former biker.
    Bell, along with Cascade Sports Authority owner Greg Kemper, helped create the skate park committee more than two years ago at the behest of several young skaters. “When I first opened the store, I had a lot of kids asking me if I’d build them a skate park,” Kemper said. “I told them I’d help them get one started.”
    The kids made a lot of progress raising money at the outset, Kemper said, although it has slowed.
    The skaters raised about $6,000 and Kemper convinced the Central Oregon Investment Board, known as COIB, to match that amount. The only catch was a requirement that the grant be spent before this June on engineering and design work.
    Taking note of the shrinking calendar, Bell asked city leaders at their March 11 council meeting to commit land toward a park. Councilors responded with the west-side property.
    Then, after securing that key commitment, Bell sheepishly brought to the council’s attention one last small detail: The skate park committee still was about $3,800 short of the $15,800 cost to complete the design and engineering.
    Kirk Utzinger, director of the Central Oregon Boys & Girls Club, just happened to be attending the March 11 council meeting and unexpectedly offered to split the difference with the city.
    His gesture was met with roaring applause. Later, ironically, Utzinger asked the city to increase its annual contribution to the Boys & Girls Club from $5,000 to $7,500.
    “This got us our start,” Bell said.
    Madras Mayor Rick Allen has noted that the city is due for a park on its west side, anyway.
    “In reality the city is going to run this thing because there’s no parks district,” Allen said. The city council last year set aside $25,000 to go toward actual construction work when the park is ready to break ground. It is hoped that more grants and fund raising by the kids will garner the money needed to make it a reality.
    As time has passed, kids heavily involved in the project have moved on. But the skate park committee now has land and a new sense of determination. The group hosts regular 7 p.m. meetings at the Chamber of Commerce the first Tuesday of every month.
    “Now we’re looking for a fresh group of kids to pick up the ball and run with it,” Kemper said.
    Bend, Redmond and Prineville all have given their skateboarders and bikers the valued amenity, and even LaPine is in the process of building one.
    Bell said skate parks give kids a place to practice their sport. At the same time, he said, the park keeps them off property where they might not be welcome.
    “They can do more skating with a park designed to skate at than the places around town where they do now,” Bell said.
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