A jumping off point: Council, alliance lay path forward for Craig skate park project
Loudy Simpson identified as potential site for what could be the biggest skate park in Colorado
The Craig Skatepark Alliance is aiming to build the largest skate park in Colorado here in Craig.
The skate park project has been in the works since August, when project organizers and 40-50 local youth flooded council chambers in support of the project.
The Craig Skatepark Alliance met with Craig City Council on May 24 in a workshop session to determine the next steps toward building a skate park.
“We’re in the phase now of getting organized,” said Gail Martinez, vice president of the Craig Skatepark Alliance. “We’ve got our nonprofit status, and we’re starting our fundraising.”
The first big expense will be engineering and design, and in order to start the design phase, the skate park would need an approved location.
Members of Craig Skatepark Alliance said they are open to any option, but they want to go big. The project plan estimates the size of the skate park between 65,000 and 100,000 square feet, with varying terrain for different skill levels.
This size range would make Craig’s skate park the largest in the state, larger than Denver Skatepark at 60,000 square feet and Arvada’s skate park at 40,000 square feet.
Looking at Loudy Simpson
One potential site that has been identified is the northeast ball field at Loudy Simpson Park. The land is county-owned, so it would require an agreement between the city and county.
Craig Mayor Ryan Hess said when the city redid electricity at Loudy Simpson in prior years, the power to the infrastructure at the ball fields was shut off. There also would be a considerable cost if the county were to revamp the ball fields to get them back to a playable grade.
From previous conversations with Triple Crown, the city’s parks and rec department reported that attracting any type of tournament would be unlikely with the condition of the fields.
“Do we spend money, the county or some collaborative effort, to expand ball field space that’s not being used at a high rate?” Hess asked. “Or do you redevelop it into a skate park on existing land?”
“We’ve been through quite a few conversations throughout the last eight months,” said Jon Miller, president of Craig Skatepark Alliance. “We’ve kind of landed on Loudy as the best location for several reasons.”
For starters, Loudy Simpson hosts several large events such as Whittle the Wood and the Moffat County Balloon Festival, which attract visitors from around the region and state. Having a unique attraction like the skate park at Loudy could boost activities during existing events.
Considering recent international growth in the skateboard industry, the Craig skate park would also have the potential to attract events and competitions of its own, as Loudy Simpson would have capacity in space and facilities to handle large scale events at the skate park.
“We believe that Loudy Simpson is really the best foot forward for our community,” Miller said. “If we are driving traffic and creating events and doing things for a skate park of this size, we would want out of the neighborhoods.”
A few cons
While there would be benefits to having the skate park outside of residential areas, one main concern would be a lack of accessibility for youth.
While children and teens are not the only target audience for a skate park, local youth would be its prime users.
“That’s the only downside to Loudy Simpson,” said Councilman Tom Kleinschnitz, referencing “that average middle school skateboarder whose parents are at work” and can’t yet drive.
However, the city wants to develop a trail system from Craig out to Loudy Simpson, and Councilman Jackson suggested the skate park could be a catalyst for a trail or transportation solution to develop as the project progresses.
Another concern with the Loudy Simpson site is its proximity to the river and its floodplain, which could pose issues for construction. Miller said a solution to this would be to build the park on a raised grade, rather than digging down.
Is the alliance set on building the state’s largest skate park, or would its members settle for a smaller park in order to complete the project?
“We’re shooting for the moon to try and get consensus on something special,” Miller responded. “If we can make something, maybe not the biggest, but the most unique in some way … we can think about it in that way.”
Inspiration for the park would include signature features and terrain that can only be experienced by coming to Craig.
Miller also wants the park’s features to be on brand with Moffat County, possibly being inspired by the coal mining industry and local landmarks like the Moffat Tunnel or Dinosaur National Monument.
One of the perceived benefits of building a skate park with unique features would be that it creates a tourism destination with low operational and maintenance costs.
According to the Craig Skatepark Alliance, “skate tourism has put many smaller towns on the map. Trinidad, Colo. (population 9,000), Hailey, Idaho (population 7,000), and Aumsville, Oregon, (population 3,000), all have world-class skate parks that bring visitors from across the country.”
Skate parks create tourism centered closer to town and local businesses, minimizing impact on public land use and reducing overcrowding of recreational spaces, according to the alliance. Having a skate park in town would also create opportunities for adjacent businesses such as skate shops.
What will the project cost?
Council members wanted to know what it will cost to build and maintain the skate park. Miller said modern concrete skate parks have a 20-year lifespan and do not need a lot of maintenance. Once skate parks age, they need small concrete patching in areas with heavier wear.
Martinez said day-to-day maintenance would be like a typical playground: Someone from the city would need to go in, check trash cans and make sure there isn’t any vandalism.
Most skate parks in Colorado have an associated organization, like the Craig Skatepark Alliance, that does fundraising to support upkeep, improvement projects and concrete patching down the road.
The full project construction is currently estimated to cost between $3 million to $4 million. Costs for design and engineering typically run between 10-15% of the total project cost.
According to City Manager Peter Brixius, these types of grants tend to be a heavy lift for the city and typically require a 20% match.
Priorities and fundraising
Because the project would require some city resources for development and oversight, council members said they want to make sure this is a project the community wants to prioritize.
Development of a skate park was identified in the city’s master plan to replace the previous skate park that was removed. However, community members have brought forth other projects for consideration, such as an indoor pool.
“There are a lot of people out there who want to help us fund projects, and they want us to know what our community priorities are,” council member Kleinschnitz said.
Due to the scope of the skate park project, funding would likely have to rely heavily on larger state and federal grants. The alliance has also identified a number of foundation grants, fundraising strategies and revenue streams to support the project.
The next steps for the alliance will be to get potential donors lined up, while city officials will try to do their part in creating a cohesive plan for what resources would be needed to maintain existing infrastructure and the priorities for expansion.
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