Wheels up: Twiggs Park skate park to centralize growing skating community


Seeger Gray/The Daily Northwestern

Set to be completed in 2023, a skate park located in Twiggs Park will centralize the growing community of skaters in Evanston.

Elena Hubert, Assistant City Editor

Avery Bryant, a recent Evanston Township High School graduate who has been skateboarding in Evanston since late elementary school, said there isn’t a day he doesn’t get chased out of a skate spot in Evanston.

That will soon change. After more than 15 years without a designated skate park, Evanston skaters will finally have a sanctioned shred spot. Residents voted on a final design at a Tuesday meeting for the skate park set to open in Twiggs Park in fall 2023.

Bryant said he’s hopeful the skate park will legitimize the skateboarding community in the eyes of Evanston residents. Because Evanston doesn’t have a skate park, Bryant said skaters new to the scene have to chase after any boards they see to connect with each other. 

He said the skate community is also dependent on street skating in unauthorized areas like Fountain Square. Residents often complain about property destruction and trespassing they attribute to these skaters.

“Our values don’t necessarily align perfectly with most people who are walking around downtown Evanston,” Bryant said. “So I understand why people are upset about it. I try to be respectful though.”

Evanston’s skating history

The parking lot of the Robert Crown Community Center formerly housed Evanston’s only skate park, which was made out of wood, in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It was closed after falling into disrepair and never reopened.

Nate Kipnis has been skating since the 1970s. He is the owner of sustainable architecture firm Kipnis Architecture + Planning and sits on the skate park advisory group.

He described a similar skate scene to Bryant in Evanston in the late 1970s. Back then, he went by “Nate the Skate” and rode for a local skate team, where he and the team attempted tricks like frontside aerials and grinds in competitions.

Kipnis said the team dominated the Midwest competitive skateboarding circuit without a skate park in their area. The team practiced on anything they could skate on or inside of, including 13-foot diameter metal pipes. Kipnis said they had to start fires inside of the pipe to warm it during the winter.

We would travel hours to go ride illegally if we found a pool or if we found a bank or half pipe or something,” Kipnis said. “We would drive for God knows how long and get chased out by police.”

A temporary solution

At the moment, Evanston’s only designated skateboarding destination can be found in Ridgeville Park District. It’s a pop-up spot called Ridgeville Ramps and features wooden ramps and guardrails set up by local skaters.

Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th), an avid skater himself, served as the go-between for the neighborhood kids wanting to set up a temporary skate spot and the Ridgeville Park District.

Geracaris said skateboarding welcomes people from all walks of life, mainly due to the low economic barriers and a recent push for underrepresented groups to join the sport.

“It’s one of very few hobbies or activities where you really get a cross-section of humanity,” Geracaris said. “You have people of all ages, all races, all genders and you have this common love. And those other things don’t really matter when you’re at the skatepark.”

With the addition of the Ridgeville Ramps, and the urge to get outside during the pandemic, Bryant said the skate scene recently grew “tremendously.”

“When you (look at) the impact that Ridgeville has had, a concrete park could do some pretty cool things,” Bryant said.

Building a permanent park

Geracaris is the co-founder of Evanston Skates, a coalition of over 70 wheeled sport enthusiasts that advocates for a new skate park. His fellow co-founder Eric Pitt said a major concern in mobilizing the group was that the city would hire a construction company without skate park expertise, which Kipnis said would likely result in an “unrideable” park.

Spohn Ranch, a skate park design and construction firm, created the park’s final design. Kipnis said he hopes the city will also contract the firm for the park’s construction to ensure a rideable park. 

Pitt said the skate park will give skaters what they’ve been pushing for, while also giving the city greater legitimacy in fining those who skate downtown. 

“It gives them that tool…the carrot and the stick,” Pitt said. “The carrot is we have the skatepark and the stick is they can find kids once the skate park exists for skateboarding downtown. So, it gives them the incentive.”

Bryant said, although the skate park will give skaters a home, it won’t keep them off the streets.

“I think the skate park is a good thing,” Bryant said. “The city thinks that the skatepark is going to stop us from street skating, and it’s going to solve that problem. But that is…not at all what the skate park is going to do.”

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Twitter: @elenahubert25

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