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Monday, April 14th, 2008

Skateboarders $14,000 closer to their dream

By Shelley Grieshop
More than $14,000 has been raised so far to build a proposed skateboard park near Grand Lake in Celina.
A group of youngsters, their parents and supporters continue to hold fundraisers and donate money to fulfill their dream of a concrete skateboard park along Lakeshore Drive in Mercelina Park. City councilors are expected to hear a proposal on the project in the near future as plans are finalized, said Celina Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Fortkamp, one of the group's biggest supporters.
"I know they need this and it's long overdue," he said. "It's been on the back burner for quite a while."
Fortkamp estimates, through his research, that a basic skateboard park would cost about $50,000, including a concrete base with some curves, ramps and rails, which are used to grind wheels. Other items could be added when funds become available, he added.
The proposed park would span about 80-by-100-feet or longer depending on the size of the ramps, Fortkamp said.
The idea was first proposed to city councilors several years ago but the idea has stalled due to a variety of reasons, Fortkamp said. One of the issues discussed often by officials is the liability risk to the city.
"I know some people are worried about liability, but the city would be no more liable than they are for the ballfields and the playgrounds," he said, adding safety gear would be mandated with proper signage posted to warn skaters about the rules.
Injuries and liability have not been an issue for the city of Wapakoneta, which built a skateboard park six years ago in its Veteran's Memorial Park, said Recreation Director Jack Hayzlett.
"We've never been sued and no one has ever come to the city council to complain," he said.
Hayzlett admitted the park has been the site of some accidents including a few broken bones. But no claims have every been filed against the city of Wapakoneta, which requires the skaters wear protective gear including helmets, he said.
"Our biggest problem at times is the language," Hayzlett said, adding the skateboard park is near a small soccer field where younger children play.
The skateboard park is used "quite a bit" he said.
"It's a sport they see on TV and they want to participate. The park gives them somewhere to go," Hayzlett added.
He said bicycles are as common as skateboards at the site in Wapakoneta near Interstate 75 on the southeast side of the city.
The skatepark is a work in progress. Six years ago the city implemented Phase 1, a basic $20,000 project. Two years later, Phase 2 gave the park a steeper slope and grinding rails for an additional $20,000. The work was completed by Huna Designs, which builds recreational structures.
Phase 3 of the park, not yet scheduled, will cost about $45,000 and includes deeper fiberglass platforms for bicycle stunts, Hayzlett said.
Other area skateboard parks are located in Greenville and Lima.
Fortkamp said the Celina-area youths have worked hard to raise money by holding various types of fundraisers during the last few years. A recent $5,000 donation by the Celina VFW ladies auxiliary brought the total to $14,500, with all funds being kept by the Mercer County Civic Association.
Jon Wenning of Jony D Images in Celina is one of the area businesses that supports the project. He's hoping other area organizations and businesses step in to give a helping hand.
Most recently the kids have been skating once a month in the former Wal-Mart building along Havemann Road. As the nice weather rolls in, they will change the venue to the First Church of God parking lot in Celina. They are forbidden to skate on public property by order of the police and aren't welcome on most private properties.
"The kids are tired of getting in trouble, getting moved from place to place," Wenning said. "They just want somewhere to go where they can have fun."
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