Alderman champions struggling Evanston skate park

Andy Nelson

Evanston’s only skate park has been under the budget ax for nearly two months, but one alderman says he wants to save it.

Ald. Steven Bernstein (4th) said Monday the city has enough money to cover the Robert Crown Skate Park’s annual $18,000 cost. He will propose that funding be restored to the park at the Evanston City Council meeting next Monday, but he declined to provide details.

The park is slated to close under the city manager’s proposed 2003-2004 budget, which the council is expected to pass next Monday. Aldermen must adopt next year’s budget before March 1.

Brad Court, the owner of Lifted Skate Shop, 628 Church St., said that if the city wants skaters to use the park, certain improvements must be made first.

“It’s way too dangerous,” Court said.

He said the cracked pavement in the park is not only a danger to skaters but hardly worth the $5 fee users paid when the park was still open.

“You pay five bucks for the worst park in the state,” he said.

The skate park, located at the Robert Crown Center, 1701 Main St., already has a “closed” sign that warns visitors to stay off the equipment. Inside, deep cracks run along the surface, which used to be a parking lot. A number of old parking barriers have been arranged in what looks like a makeshift rail. Nearly all of the wooden ramps are marked with graffiti.

The park’s popularity has fallen drastically since it was built seven years ago, said Doug Gaynor, the director of the city’s Parks/Forestry and Recreation Department.

“The half pipe was the main attraction,” said Bob Dorneker, recreation superintendent, who headed the committee that chose the park’s design. “That was the trendy thing. … People have (since) turned to fun boxes and rails.”

Gaynor said other North Shore parks offer better equipment. He said an ideal park would include concrete ramps and different sorts of fixtures, as well as more space.

A few children, all younger than 13 and off school for Presidents’ Day, played in the park Monday afternoon. Some sat on their boards; others slid down the ramps like playground slides.

Evanston resident Yahia Yahia, whose children were playing in the park, said the city should keep it open, especially since it’s in his neighborhood and is near Washington Elementary School, 914 Ashland Ave. Other skate parks are far away, he said.

“I wish families who live in the area would donate money to keep it open,” Yahia said.

Court said he offered to resurface the park last year in exchange for advertising space for his skate shop. But he said he gave up on the deal when the city would not tell him how much the resurfacing would cost.

Attempts to reach city officials for comment on Court’s plan Monday were unsuccessful.

Gaynor said he would like the city to build a new park if it had the resources.

“I think you have to place it on a list of priorities, and it’s not the highest priority right now,” he said. “We have the opportunity to always go back or develop it another way.”

Court said a new skate park should be a bigger priority for Evanston than it is now.

“There’s more skateboards sold than baseball mitts,” he said. “But there are baseball diamonds everywhere that aren’t being used.”