Mar. 14—In less than five months, local skateboarders will have a new set of obstacles to ride on at the Mitchell Skate Park, as a $120,000 addition nears construction.
Following the Parks and Recreation Board's recent approval of a contract to build the skate park addition, which includes a concrete bowl and street obstacle course on the west side, crews have 180 days to complete the project. The American Ramp Company, a renowned skate park construction group based out of Joplin, Missouri, was tabbed by the city to complete the roughly 2,800 square-foot addition.
For Hudson Buckingham, an avid local skateboarder, the skate park expansion has been a long time coming. Since the Dry Run Creek Skate Park moved to its current location along Burr Street roughly 10 years ago, Buckingham and other skaters and BMX bikers have had to work with an aging set up. But that's all about to change come mid-summer.
"With what we have right now, it's really hard to progress to another level. This will help grow the skateboarding community and get more people out here," Buckingham said.
For more than a decade, an old handrail, a pair of rusted quarter pipes and two ledges are all that local skateboarders and BMX bikers have had to perform tricks on at the skate park. Among the new features that will be constructed is an 1,800-square-foot skateboarding bowl, an obstacle that's similar to an empty concrete pool.
According to Nathan Bemo, owner of the American Ramp Company, the bowl will have a depth of five feet to six feet that transitions into a shallower side of four feet. The street course will be built on the southwest edge of the existing park and will include a concrete stair set, handrails and small bank. Bemo said the bowl will be the first phase of the project.
As a talented skateboarder who specializes in a style known as "transition skating," which entails performing tricks on vert shaped ramps, the concrete bowl is the feature that Buckingham is most eager to ride. After the concrete bowl is finished and ready to be rode, Mitchell will become one of two cities to have such a feature at its skate park. Fort Thompson, near the Chamberlain area is the only other skate park to have a similar type of concrete bowl in East River South Dakota.
"I've skated bowls and pools before, and it was awesome. They are challenging to skate at first, but they are real fun when you get the feel of it," Buckingham said. "There aren't really any bowls and pools around the area besides Fort Thompson, so I think it will bring more skaters from other towns even."
Cole Foote, a local street skateboarder, is anxious to add more tricks to his large arsenal on street obstacles, such as the handrails and stair sets. Foote has been skateboarding at the Mitchell skate park since he was in his early teens, and the dream of a new addition is something he still is grasping.
"I can't believe we will have a bowl, banks and down handrails to skate by this summer," Foote said. "We've had to progress with a smaller, rougher set up than most skaters elsewhere, so this will be a dream come true. It's awesome the city actually cares about this skate park and (those of) us who use it."
The quest for a new addition began after Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell invited local skateboarders, BMX bikers, roller bladers and scooter riders, to a public forum roughly two years ago, seeking their input on designs for a new addition. Considering there are roughly 300 skate park users each year, according to Powell, he said the number of users was outgrowing the current setup.
Powell views the skate park as a recreation area that's accessible for a wide range of people. There are no fee structures to skate Mitchell's skate park, which Powell noted allows more people to use the park, regardless of income levels.
"By adding these improvements, I hope to see more community support for a great activity that kids and adults of all backgrounds have access to," Powell said. "Skate parks are like small communities of their own, so it's important to maintain it and build onto it right. These designs are exciting, and we hope it will increase people doing healthy activity."
Following completion of the expansion design in 2019, the project was looking at a cost of around $120,000. While the price tag was hefty, local skateboarders began fundraising efforts, which amounted to roughly $22,000 from Mitchell businesses and residents. With 75% of the project costs still up in the air in 2020, the skate park addition received its biggest boost when the state awarded the Parks and Recreation Department a $53,000 grant that was part of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, bringing the fundraising total to $75,000.
The Mitchell City Council picked up the rest of the project costs in September by approving $47,000 for the addition.
"I am very proud that our council and Parks and Recreation Board members supported this, because it is a place that is used often," Powell said. "The park has needed more space and obstacles for a while now, so it's great we are able to make that happen now."