Rolling into Craig: A state-of-the-art skatepark?
Could Colorado’s largest skatepark be built in Craig?
That’s the sincere intent of Jon Miller, a son of Craig who left, built a career, and has returned with a heart for building up his hometown.
Whatever obstacles the dream might face, Miller, whose nationwide and front-range-based career in marketing and action sports suits him particularly for such a quest, is committed to making this vision a reality.
“I moved back to my hometown and have been fact-finding and sort of gathering information,” Miller said. “Gaining understanding of our economic situation, the who’s who in local politics, sticking my head into tourism conversations, and I’ve had it in my mind I want to contribute something big to my community since coming back. I wasn’t sure what that was — I’d just been laying the groundwork.”
Last month, Miller started Craig Skatepark Alliance, aiming to bring a roughly 50,000-square-foot skatepark to Craig. That size would outdo Colorado’s current largest skatepark, a roughly 40,000-square-foot enterprise in Arvada, and would also put Craig on the map with one of the country’s five largest parks of its kind.
“You can take the kid out of Craig but can’t take Craig out of the kid,” Miller said. “I see massive value in this area in this corner of the state, kind of the last frontier of an otherwise overgrown state. Something very important to me is that we envision our future without destroying our past.”
According to Miller, a skatepark like this would create an organic, largely self-sustained draw for visitors while also providing a powerful direct benefit to the community.
“I happen to be a skateboarder,” Miller said. “I started when I was 10 in Craig, but we had nowhere to skate. The one time I was ever arrested was skating at the then-middle school late at night, because they had lights and a ledge and some stairs. My friends and I got really passionate, and we’d take the alpine taxi shuttle to Steamboat because they had a skatepark.”
That proved to be a formative opportunity for a young Miller, who said he met a group of older skaters who happened to be snowboarding pioneers living in Steamboat Springs.
“Those guys took us under their wing, and they were incredible role models,” Miller said. “I grew up in this blue-collar town, but I wanted to be an artist, and people in Craig didn’t necessarily know about that so they didn’t know how to speak positively to me about it. Well, I’d go to Steamboat and meet these guys and they were professional athletes, graphic artists, entrepreneurs. They set me on my course to be a successful creative director working for Fortune 500 companies.”
Skateboarding, Miller argues, is as inclusive a sport as it comes.
“All you need is a pair of shoes and a skateboard,” he said. “You don’t have to try out for a team; you don’t have to appease a potentially subjective coach; you don’t have to sit on the bench until you prove your worth; your parents don’t have to be wealthy or even in a moderate financial position to pay for you to be in it. It’s very inclusive. It allows for people from all backgrounds, no exclusion on gender or wealth, grades, anything like that. You just show up, and you find yourself in a space where the only competition is yourself.”
Adult skateboarders, Miller said, regularly travel around the country seeking top parks on which they can put in some boardwork.
“I’ve been all over doing it, and I know firsthand that a professional business person who loves skateboarding will travel to some weird places on the planet just to experience a new skateboard park,” he said. “What I love from a business perspective is if you build it, they will come. Don’t have to dump a lot of money into marketing, and there’s not huge operating costs.”
On top of that, while Miller’s vision is of a particularly unique park, there’s no need to entirely reinvent the wheel.
“There’s plenty of proof of success,” he said. “We can look at lots of other communities for how it got done.”
It’s not cheap, but Miller is confident it can be done.
“Arvada was about 40,000 square feet, and that was a $2 million project with a three-year timeline,” Miller said. “I think we can expedite it, at least break ground by two years. And yeah I want to one-up Arvada. At least 50,000 feet.”
Locations are pending, Miller said, though he is already scoping out possibilities.
Money in particular doesn’t strike Miller as a serious deterrent.
“There’s a lot of different ways it can happen,” he said. “There’s Just Transition money from both the federal and state governments, there’s Tony Hawk Foundation that’s been instrumental in building skateparks all over the country. There’s money from the Office of Economic Development and International Tourism from the state, Get Outdoors Colorado, Colorado Lottery, and I think there will be an opportunity for local fundraising through the chamber and that sort of thing, too.
“I believe we can get this done with little to zero tax burden on our community.”
Miller has no apparent doubt the lit, partially covered park can become a reality in the relatively near future.
“Our community must be ready to step forward with a bold vision, as we look to a future without the coal industry,” he said. “A skatepark project like I am envisioning will incorporate signature features that will inspire action sports culture to experience a one-of-a-kind terrain environment that can’t be experienced anywhere else.”
The next step is a leadership council meeting, the first of its kind for the Alliance, to be held this Friday night at 775 Yampa Ave. from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Anyone who believes he or she can be an asset or resource to successful completion of the project is invited to attend. RSVP to the meeting at email@example.com.
“There is so much we can do here, which will create community connection and attract energy to our region while also creating opportunities for new commerce and inclusive athletic opportunities,” Miller said.
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Next week, Colorado Northwestern Community College and Moffat County are hosting a free day-long seminar for local ranchers and agriculture producers.