Park to accommodate skateboarders, bicyclists, in-line skaters

by: Photo Submitted By Austin Roberts - Bicyclist Gary Conner catches some air on a hill bicyclists frequent near the northern edge of Madras. If all goes as planned, cyclists and skateboarders will have a new park by next summer.

   After four years of fund-raising, the Madras Bike and Skate Park Committee is ready to move forward with plans to begin building its long-awaited park.
   Funding for the park reached the 90 percent mark last week when the committee received word that it will receive two new grants for a total of $55,000.
   The Ford Family Foundation has agreed to donate $50,000, and the Tony Hawk Foundation, $5,000, bringing total expected contributions to $195,600.
   The estimated cost of the park is $216,800, which includes the cost of land, design, engineering and construction.
   "We sent the design to the Tony Hawk Foundation, and they sent it back with design change recommendations, and a grant for $5,000," said Melanie Widmer, committee treasurer and city councilor.
   "The city is acting as the fiscal agent for all the grants," she said. The fiscal agent accepts the donations and makes all payments for the park group.
   The city of Madras also donated land for the future park, which will be located on the corner of H and Marshall streets on the west side of Madras, near the Culver Highway.
   In addition to the city's donation of land, labor and equipment, and $28,800 from parks system development charges, other donations include $20,000 from the Bean Foundation; $20,000 from the Oregon Community Foundation; $10,300 from fund-raising efforts and small donations; $10,000 from Bright Wood Corporation; $6,000 from the Central Oregon Community Investment Board, which was used to help pay for the design; $2,000 from Jefferson County Middle School Student Council, and $500 from a JCMS coin drive; $2,000 from the Madras Safeway Store; $1,000 from the Boys and Girls Club of Madras; and in-kind contributions of $9,000 in materials from Parr Lumber; and $4,000 in labor, equipment and material from Deschutes Valley Water.
   Widmer explained that the city is donating money earmarked for parks. "It's not general fund money," she said. "It's money that has to be spent specifically on park construction."
   The 10,000-square-foot concrete park, designed by the well-known Dreamland Skateparks of Lincoln City, will feature ramps, bowls, and obstacles for bicyclists, skateboarders, and skaters.
   "We're trying to make the park available for all three sports," said Widmer's husband Sid, committee member and extreme sports enthusiast.
   Sid Widmer pointed out that there are two styles of riding: street style, which features obstacles such as stairs, benches, and rails; and ramp style, which has bowls and ramps for aerial tricks.
   "Most skateparks include both," he said. "This one has a little more of the bowls and ramp style. Hawk suggested we add a little more street style."
   Dreamland Skateparks has designed and constructed parks all over Oregon, which now has more skateparks per capita than any other state.
   The company got its start in the early 1990s, when a group of skateboarders decided to build a skatepark under the Burnside Bridge. The Burnside Skatepark was so successful that a group of the skateboarders who had helped build it formed their own company -- Dreamland Skateparks.
   Since then, Dreamland has built parks in other states, and even other countries, including Italy and Austria.
   The company uses only experienced skateboarders to work on the parks, to ensure that parks meet the skateboarding standards of professionals.
   "Oregon is known for having a lot of world-class parks -- and they're all free," Sid Widmer said. "We're trying to make a world class park."
   Wen Jou of Ace Consultants of Beaverton engineered the project, and Dreamland Skateparks will be in charge of construction, which is expected to get under way next year.
   "Our plan is to start construction in the spring," said Melanie Widmer, adding that the committee is still waiting to hear if it will receive another grant which would put it over the top for fund-raising.
   Construction is expected to take about eight weeks. When it is completed, the city will maintain the park, although skateparks typically don't require a lot of maintenance, according to Sid Widmer.
   "The kids kind of self-maintain," he said. "I've seen them bring brooms and things to sweep them out."
   The park should appeal to youths from elementary through high school, as well as young adults.
   Safety equipment depends on the sport, but in Oregon, bicycling, skateboarding and in-line skating all require helmets for those 16 and under for bicycling, or 15 and under for skateboarding and skating. "We will put up signs that a helmet is required," Widmer said, "but like any sport, you do it at your own risk."
   The Madras Bike and Skate Park Committee, which has a core group of about eight adults and six youths, has organized the park effort since 2000.
   Dave Bell, manager of Les Schwab, and president of the committee, got involved with the effort because his two sons were skaters and bikers. Although his oldest son has moved on to college, Bell is excited that their efforts are about to yield results.
   "It really seems like it's about to happen," he said. "Stuff is starting to snowball, and we're going to get there."
   A couple months ago, Bell said that a new group of youths got involved with the committee. "The kids are really starting to sense that it's getting near," he said.
   For more information on the group, or to contribute to the park, contact Bell at Les Schwab, 475-3834; Vice President Becky Roberts at 475-4525; or Melanie Widmer at 475-2071.
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