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Skating into the future

Tyler Cole has always been a skateboarder. When his daughter was born eight months ago, he made a decision: Troutdale needed a skate park.

“There’s been attempts to get a park in Troutdale dating back to, I think, 1995,” said Cole.OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Tyler Cole is working to have a new skate park built in Troutdale. Until then, he often travels with his 8-month-old daughter, Annabelle, to the Gresham skate park near Main City Park.

So the Troutdale resident started with an email to the City Council, created the Troutdale Skateboard Alliance on Facebook and used an “old school” method of posting fliers around town to seed the idea and get people on board.

“If your town doesn’t have a skate park, it’ll become a skate park,” he said. “I wanted to show the public, not just skaters, that these things don’t happen on their own.”

Cole’s legwork had an impact.

Councilor John Wilson, a former skater, recommended adding a skate park to the city’s parks capital improvement plan. The council approved a future $455,000 allocation last month.

“I grew up in Fountain Valley, Calif., where surfing, skateboarding and biking were very popular,” Wilson said. “A skateboard/BMX park is important to Troutdale as it will serve kids who now have to go to Gresham or Portland to skateboard or BMX (bike). I worked with a youth program for over 11 years. Working with these kids I found out that each one had different needs to make them succeed. A skateboard/ BMX park will help kids succeed in life. They just don’t know it yet, as they are just having fun practicing their sport.”

Howard Weiner has operated Cal Skate Skateboards in Portland — where Cole works — for 40 years. He said the value of a skate park is larger than just skateboarding, but as part of parks and recreation as a whole.

“If you look at Oregon, we probably have one of the most successful skate park systems in the nation,” Weiner said. “Skateboarding programs in those parks are the most successful they run. That speaks for itself.”

Weiner believes the negative perception of skateboarding and parks is dying.

“It’s now grown into a lifestyle,” he said. “I serve three generations of skateboarders. I get grandpas coming in with grandsons, saying ‘I bought my first skateboard from this guy.’ And it gets kids off computers.”

Wilson said the skate park could be located in Columbia Park between Imagination Station and Reynolds High School. He believes there are education benefits as well.OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The Troutdale City Council has approved placing a new skate park in its parks capital improvement plan, and it could be built here at Columbia Park next to Reynolds High School.

“Our school system provides youth sports, dance, music and other mainstream programs for a lot of the students,” Wilson said. “They say these programs help the students who participate in them get better grades.”

There’s also a tourism element.

“People come here from all over the world to skate,” Cole said. “That attracts more people to our neck of the woods who otherwise don’t know where Troutdale is and have never heard of it. It’s just another stop to get people to stop in our city and spend money.”

Who pays?

Putting the skate park into the capital improvement plan doesn’t necessarily mean the city will bear the cost.

“It’s only a plan the city has in place,” Cole said.

“The public (the skateboarders) are just as responsible for helping with the fundraising, planning, and now more than ever, persuading city officials that skate parks are just as important a project as any other public agenda,” Cole said.CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - This rendering shows how the Troutdale skate park could be designed.

Wilson said fundraising is just one way to build the park.

The city can also look into grants, such as the Tony Hawk Foundation, from Metro or the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, or see if the facility qualifies for the city’s parks system development funds.

“With the efforts of many it can happen sooner than later,” Wilson said.

Into the future

A conceptual plan sketches the park at 13,000 square feet, more than twice the size of the skate park near Main City Park in Gresham.

“In my view, it’s beneficial to the community as kind of a communication board, and a place for not just the kids anymore, but the adults who are avid skaters,” said Tim Seery, Troutdale Parks and Facilities superintendent. “You see them all over the place now. The people that frequent them maintain them, and police themselves.”

The Gresham skate park, according to Gresham Public Works superintendent Julie Larsen, has had nothing but positive feedback. Larsen said people are asking when the park will expand, although there are no plans to expand anytime soon.

A skate park could be a highlight in Troutdale’s parks system, especially in the proposed location at Columbia Park.OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Tyler Cole and his daughter Annabelle enjoy a laugh during a recent morning session at Greshams skate park.

“I see it there like a jewel in the rough, it would really be beautiful,” Seery said. “It’s also a very visible location to law enforcement and not affecting too many neighbors because it’s set back from yards.”

Seery, who has a skateboard hanging in his garage, said he’s already seen a lot of support for the skate park, meaning its future could be imminent.

“Skaters have lot to fight for,” Cole said. “When they want something, they’re out there until they’re bleeding out (their) hands to make sure it’s there for generations to come.”

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