Feature Article - February 2011
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Get In On the Action

Action Sports Parks Bigger, Better, More Balanced Than Ever

By Daniel P. Smith

The two Andrews parks are located next to one another, each big enough for its specific user group and each constructed of concrete elements that provide the solid foundation Andrews requires to capture the maximum return on its ambitious investment.

Beyond the information and research, however, many cities also reach for additional community involvement to minimize costs and secure user buy-in.

The local skaters in Bemidji led fundraising drives and rallied support for the dynamic project, amassing upward of $166,000. The group's visionary ways and dedicated efforts earned a $25,000 maximum grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation as well as additional donations from Burton Snowboards, Nike and the Nielson Foundation, a local bank program.

"There was a nice, spirited effort between the skaters, the community and the city to produce a finished product that meets the needs of everyone," Larson said, adding that the skatepark, achieved with the addition of $150,000 in sales tax funds, represented one slice of a complete $3.4 million city park overhaul.

The path to the Heritage Park Skate Plaza, meanwhile, began five years ago when a local high school freshman petitioned the mayor and later made a proposal for a skatepark. As the student's efforts gathered support, St. Cloud's civic hierarchy took notice, just as the grassroots St. Cloud Skate Plaza Group pledged to raise $150,000 for the cause and drafted their own skatepark plans.

"We actually had plans for a skate plaza for years, but never took it much beyond those basic ideas," Zlotnik said, acknowledging that the park department's 2003 comprehensive plan called for the exploration of non-traditional parks and recreation activities, including skateboarding. "The special interest group pushed us into action."

Public and private partnerships were nothing new to St. Cloud. Before tackling the trend-setting Heritage Park Skate Plaza, the world-class Pineview Park BMX showed that public-private partnerships could drive results and spur new recreational participation. The dirt-track facility, which frequently alters its course to appease riders, emerged from the dedication of a local bike club to develop and maintain the BMX facility and the city's commitment and openness to cultivating new opportunities in conjunction with private agencies.

"[Pine View] is our land and capital, but it's the club's sweat equity that makes this work," Zlotnik said. "And as facilitators of recreational opportunity, we're always looking for these types of opportunities."