Two public meetings set for next week
Downtown's infrastructure has long served as a playground for skateboarders to the consternation of property owners and police, but skateboarders might soon have a legitimate city-sponsored alternative in Elliot Park.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has pinpointed Elliot Park, 1000 E. 14th St., as a possible site for a new public Skate Park, along with seven other city parks.
Elliot Park is ranked second on the list in terms of Park Board priority.
There are two meetings planned to talk about the proposed Elliot Park Skate Park. Elliot Park Neighborhood, Inc. (EPNI) leaders are holding one Monday, March 22 at the park's rec center at 7 p.m. The Park Board plans to hold a community meeting Thursday, March 25 at the neighborhood recreation center at 6:30 p.m.
Kevin Lampone, an EPNI neighborhood action coordinator, said most residents support a skate park but have concerns about safety since the skate parks won't be supervised.
Elliot Park resident Sue M. Jagodzinski, who used to work at the park's recreation center, has started researching the issue for neighborhood leaders and a college community leadership project.
Jagodzinski, 55, has never skateboarded, but she's developed an affinity for Downtown's boarders. She said some Downtown skaters can't afford treks to private suburban skate parks that charge hefty admission fees.
"Society has never really asked them what they need," Jagodzinski said.
Downtown skateboarder Al Hirte, 20, who works at the Warehouse District skateboard retailer Fobia, Inc., 108 Washington Ave. N., said he supported plans for a skate park in Elliot Park.
"I think that would be a good idea," he said.
Hirte, an avid skateboarder for the past seven years, said Downtown has always been a popular destination for skaters, but boarders have to be sly and quick to elude property owners and police.
The Basilica of St. Mary, on Downtown's northwestern edge, and the Pillsbury Center, 200 S. 6th St., are skating hotspots, he said.
He said skate parks that feature ramps, stairs and rails are becoming increasingly popular.
Park Board Planner Jill Andrews said skaters and neighborhood leaders won't have much sway on the skate park's aesthetics and features. Plans call for parks with concrete or asphalt surfaces with either subground "bowls" or "modular equipment," such as "fun boxes," that sit above ground. The skate parks would be roughly the size of one or two tennis courts.
"Park Board recreation staff report that the Downtown area community, particularly the Elliot Park neighborhood, has been very vocal about their desire to have a skate park in their neighborhood," Andrews said. "There is nowhere for skaters to skate, so they can skate on park and city property and damage it."
Luther Krueger, a 1st Precinct crime-
prevention specialist who focuses on Downtown neighborhoods, said a new skate park would be beneficial if well advertised and visible to the public.
"A new skate park would be great if the skateboarders use it," he said, citing an outlaw appeal that a sanctioned park couldn't offer. "I'm not convinced all of them will roll on down to the park, but it will have to take a lot of the pressure off the Downtown buildings, planters and ramps."
For years, police have urged property owners to invest in skateboarding deterrents, such as Skatestoppers -- metal and plastic strips that thwart skaters who want to grind their boards on the property.
Skateboarders are banned from private and government-owned property.
"Skateboarding is a nuisance crime that is kind of in the same category as panhandling -- common enough that people complain about it, but on balance, most people don't want to take the time to report it and stay on the scene to file a citizen's arrest on the skateboarder," Krueger said.