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Skaters and park users say repairs are a 'good start,' but want to see new features and equipment

PMG PHOTO: NICOLE THILL-PACHECO - Trey Kumpula, a 17-year-old St. Helens teen, shows off his moves at the St. Helens skate park on Tuesday, March 6. Kumpula said he has been skating at the park since he was a child and has, in a sense, grown up at the park. For a lot of skaters in St. Helens, the skate park in McCormick Park is where they grew up. It feels like a safe place for them to unwind, stay out of trouble and see their friends.

"It's therapy. You can get away from your house, your parents," said Trey Kumpula, a 17-year-old skater at the park Tuesday afternoon.

Kumpula, along with his friends and others, said they've been coming to the park since they were little.

"My grandma started taking me here when I was five years old," Kumpula explained.

Teens in the group, including Levi McColm, Andres Martinez, CJ Bryan and Kumpula, said they come to the park often, "whenever it's not raining or 30 degrees outside," one of them joked as he skated through the park.

The teens are just a handful of people who use the skate park, which is in need of repairs and maintenance to improve its overall quality and make it more attractive to skaters.

Skate park supporters have been working independently and with the city to brainstorm ideas on how to improve the park, make a wish list of features they want, and how to fundraise for those features. After several conversations at St. Helens City Council meetings, the city is now stepping in to help finance repairs.

The City Council approved a $4,865 contract with a St. Helens-based cement company on Wednesday, March 6, to repair certain portions of the park in need of attention.

According to the contract, repairs will include patches around the coping at the top of the bowls, areas between both ramps, and repairs in the ramp joints.

On Tuesday afternoon, teens skating the park said they are glad for the park's newfound attention and are appreciative that the city is taking a first step in helping with maintenance.

"It's good. Good start," McColm said.

PMG PHOTO: NICOLE THILL-PACHECO - CJ Bryan, Levi McColm and Andres Martinez skate at the park on Tuesday afternoon before the rain hit later that evening. The boys said they enjoy the park and visit almost daily when the weather is good, but see lots of areas in need of maintenance or improvement. While skating Tuesday, the teens point out huge cracks in the paved concrete and spots where chunks of concrete are missing along the top edge of the skate bowls.

"It's a cheese grater, but there's not much they can do about that," Martinez said, describing the bumpy and worn down condition of the concrete. To make an effective repair, he notes, the park would need an entire resurfacing, which would be expensive.

In order to really take the park to the next level, the teens said they would like to see other features added: a smaller bowl, a railing, a set of stairs to do tricks on, a grind box, and even a covered area to protect the park from the elements.

Some of those same ideas are also being discussed by a group of park users who've been involved in promoting the park and advocating for improvements. The park will celebrate its anniversary in June, and park users want to utilize that significance to build fundraising momentum. A huge mural was painted in the park in January to advertise the groups' social media accounts, St. Helens Skate Park 2019, where they are communicating about the project's progress.

During a City Council meeting in early February, 15 people addressed the council, noting how much the park means to them and pointing out how it could be transformed into a destination that people from around the state would be willing to travel to.

For now, public discussion and attention have brought awareness about the park to a wider audience. Earlier in the week, the teens said a huge group of people were using the skate park.

"Honestly, you can see a difference. People are coming to use the park," Kumpula said.

While the next steps in the project are still being hammered out, taking small steps in the right direction to repair the park is a start.

"It's good to see people putting an effort towards it," Kumpula said.

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