Skate park proposal to undergo city deliberation

Edward Cox, Assistant Web Editor

A community effort to bring back a skate park to Evanston is gaining momentum.

A committee including city officials and a Northwestern professor will hold their first meeting about the feasibility of constructing a skate park on Tuesday. The discussions come amid residents’ concerns about the lack of infrastructure for local skateboarders after the skate park at the Robert Crown Center closed. Currently, the closest skate park to Evanston is in Wilmette, Ridgeville Park District commissioner Robert Bady said.

“I’m not sure anyone at the meeting believes we should not have a park. It’s just (a matter of) when,” said Dan Coyne, a commissioner of the Ridgeville Park District who will be on the committee.

Establishing a skate park in Evanston is a major initiative of Douglas Gaynor, the former director of Parks, Forestry and Recreation who retired in 2013. Gaynor passed along the idea to Ridgeville Park District board members in July. City Council suggested Ridgeville constituents collaborate with the city’s Parks and Recreation Division on the project.

Sociology Prof. Laura Nielsen, an Evanston resident, will attend the community meeting, where members will share their opinions on the skate park project. A skateboarder herself, Nielsen said her husband and kids used the Robert Crown Center skate park until the wooden ramps were closed to skateboarders and those practicing BMX, she said.

Because the city has outlawed skateboarding in public places such as parking lots, streets and certain sidewalks, her kids are sometimes stopped by police, Nielsen said.

“There are hundreds of skaters in Evanston … and nowhere to skate and it makes me wonder about the priorities of the city,” Nielsen said. “Lot of high school students in Evanston skate and a lot of college students skate and that’s a nice bridge that’s not about school. It’s something built around having fun and being active.”

The mayor’s invocation to find ways to support youth in the wake of Evanston Township High School student Dajae Coleman’s death encouraged Coyne to carry on Gaynor’s project, he said. Ridgeville Park District manages an annual budget of $700,000 to maintain its parks and oversees 14 acres of park land in south Evanston, he said.

Coyne said the city would ideally create two concrete skate parks for easier convenience. Possible funding sources for the proposed free-admission skate parks include businesses, state grants or city funds, the commissioner said.

ETHS senior Ben Heaney created a Facebook page to garner support for the construction of an Evanston skate park. He is working on the project for his Senior Studies class, where students work on an independent project during the second semester.

In the course of the project, Heaney said he has contacted Brian Rosinski, the director of Ridgeville’s Department of Parks and Recreationwho has expressed interest in the skate park plan. Heaney said he started skateboarding four and a half years ago and recognizes a need among residents from Evanston and surrounding communities for a nearby skate park.

“I think there is definitely enough demand within Evanston alone, but when you consider outside demand and interest … that’s icing on the cake,” Heaney said.

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