A Community Effort Will Become Concrete This Summer: The Osceola Skatepark is Approved to Break Ground

Two weeks ago, I stood at the edge of the skatepark at Wy’East, just down the road from Mount Hood, Oregon, huddled around Marsha Hovey’s iPhone watching a live feed of a monthly village board meeting from Osceola, Wisconsin. Adam Mahler held the phone as he, Marsha, and I were glued to the screen, awaiting a committee vote that would bring years of work to concrete fruition. A project to bring a skatepark to the Village of Osceola, the town adjacent to Trollhaugen, began a decade-and-a-half ago, led by local business owner Paul Anderson and the eighth grade class at the time. Over the years, the push for the skatepark fizzled out, but the idea had been formed.

Three years ago, when Trollhaugen marketing director Marsha Hovey bought a house in Osceola, she asked the local non-profit if she could take over the stalled out project. The local Chamber and Main Street Program gave the okay, and Hovey quickly got moving, enlisting good friends and fellow Trollhaugen power team, mountain manager Adam Mahler, assistant mountain manager Matt “Boody” Boudreaux, and food and beverage manager Chelsea Kruse, as well as a long list of others. Working with the community, resort, and snowboarders—both local and visiting—they raised money, navigated procedures, and earned the overwhelming support of residents and local government. Bowling nights, snowboard events, meat raffles (we’ll get to that later), parades, skateboard lessons, and more solidified the necessary resources, and on Tuesday, May 14th, the village board officially gave the green light to break ground this July.

Standing in the Wy’East park, the place that Marsha learned to skate in her twenties, the release of emotion was immense. For the past three years, Marsha, Mahler, and a crew of dedicated folks have spent copious amounts of their time working to make Osceola Skatepark a reality. This summer, snowboarder, skateboarder, and expert builder, Richie Conklin and his company Primary Concrete, will lay the sculptural concrete landscape. By the end of August, the Osceola Skatepark will be open for all humans to enjoy. Says Marsha, “It is a transition-focused skatepark that will align with the riding style that we know and love in Valhalla.”

I sat down with Marsha and Mahler the day after the vote to hear more about the project and the excitement of bringing a long-held dream to fruition. If you’re inspired by their efforts as I am, Osceola Skatepark is still accepting donations, so go to Osceolaskatepark.org to help them surpass their fundraising goal. – Mary T. Walsh

A supportive crew at Red Bull Bonus Track.<p>Osceola Skatepark</p>
A supportive crew at Red Bull Bonus Track.

Osceola Skatepark

Give me a little bit of background on the impetus that three years ago started this project?
Marsha: Almost exactly three years ago, I asked if we could take over a dormant project to build a skatepark in the Village of Osceola, which is the neighboring community to Trollhaugen. A small effort was started about 15 years ago to build a skatepark and all of the classic efforts were made, collecting cans, doing raffles for bikes and skateboards. A big part of that push was the local eighth grade class at the time and the Osceola Chamber and Main Street Program. A gentleman by the name of Paul Anderson spearheaded the project, and after a few years, it just kind of fizzled out and the money they raised sat in the bank account untouched.

Mahler: There wasn’t a lot of traction unfortunately.

Marsha: It didn’t go as big as they had hoped and I think it was also a different time, especially in the Midwest, for the perception of skateboarding. Twelve years later when we brought the project back to life, skateboarding is an entirely different animal and a more inclusive sport than it’s ever been. The fastest growing demographic in skateboarding is young women, the sport is in the Olympics, it’s seen as a tool for not only physical heath but mental health. Bringing the project back felt like an entirely new endeavor.

Over the past three years, what were some of the fundraising efforts for the skatepark?
Mahler: We did a lot of events.

Marsha: Like a zillion.

Mahler: We had a garage sale that we’d host at Marsha’s house with donated skate gear and snowboard gear from Ethan Deiss, Benny Milam, Danimals, Mike Skiba, Tony Wagner—anyone and everybody in the area that was getting gear from their sponsors would donate it to us to sell for relatively cheap, and all of the proceeds made at the garage sale went straight to the skatepark. We did a nine pin bowling tournament...

Marsha: The Big LebowSkatepark Fundraiser. Haha.

Mahler: That was always a good money maker. And the Dresser Lions Club would do meat raffles.

What is a meat raffle?
Mahler: Chelsea Kruse, Osceola Skatepark committee member and owner of local company Saphire Realty, would buy cows or pigs or whatever at the local 4H auctions and then she would donate that meat. Basically you buy raffle tickets and they draw your tickets and you try to win meat.

Marsha: Bacon, sausages, pork chops. The most Midwest shit you’ve ever seen.

Mahler: All the meats. We did the Rad Dad Golf Scramble. We’re holding the second on June 14th . The first year it was a huge success. We did a lot of community engagement with the learn to skate events. Go Skate Day, the city hall would let us come down, put some tents up, play some music, give out some stuff, and then whoever wanted to could come down. And we did a lot of snowboard events, too. One of the big ones was Erik Leon’s event, CORE Nation, which has come back now for three years. And we did a big fundraiser with Pat Moore and Methodology.

Erik Leon and CORE Nation have been raising funds for the skatepark for three years.<p>Osceola Skatepark</p>
Erik Leon and CORE Nation have been raising funds for the skatepark for three years.

Osceola Skatepark

Marsha: Methodology raised 10 grand. It was insane and I cried. Haha. Local families have donated big in the last year. So many people in the community have taken notice. And the events that we’ve done are to fundraise, but also to market the effort and to show the community how much people want this. The events have really done that for us. There’s been a big effort of local people that are like, “Look, we see you. We see how hard you’ve worked the last three years and we want to help you just finish it.”

Mahler: I ran into one of the big donors a few weeks after we received their donation. I approached them at the restaurant and introduced myself to just say thank you. The one thing that really hit me was they said, “We just want to see this happen. We’ve been watching you guys work so hard for this over the years. Not everyone plays a team sport and everyone needs something to do. If skateboarding can be that, we need to provide an area for them to do that.” So that was really, really cool.

It is rad to hear about the support you have received from the community, how Trollhaugen has affected people, and also people that don’t necessarily have a stake in skateboarding or snowboarding but were still really down.
Marsha: I think it’s important to note that what most people know of Trollhaugen, they get from social media. They see this massive community of snowboarding with this worldwide impact, but where we are is a town of 2,500 people in rural America with low-income families. Yes, we’re an hour outside of a major metropolitan area, but we're a pretty secluded area. Snowboarding and skateboarding literally changes the lives of the kids that are raised in these small towns and provides an outlet for positive mental health in a way that is needed now more than ever. So if there’s an extension of Trollhaugen in the way of skateboarding, that’s what this is.

It’s even more accessible.
Marsha: Totally, and it’s right in town. It’s accessible by sidewalks. Kids can bike there. This is a Norman Rockwell little river town where we have the little antique shops and a little gas station and your local bar—and now we have a skatepark built by a world renowned skatepark builder who’s also a snowboarder, whose whole heart is in this project. Tony Hawk has this amazing quote in the Skatepark Project info packets, “If your town doesn’t have a skatepark, it is the skatepark.” When small towns have ordinances against skateboarding, they’re setting everyone up for failure. So, it’s really exciting to physically have a location for everyone to skate safely.

Mahler: It’s like that town in Footloose, and we brought the music back.

Mahler, growing up in Osceola and at Troll and seeing how this affects your home in a long-term way is so cool. What does it mean to have this level of acceptance, from the town and community?
I love where I grew up. The Village of Osceola has done a lot for me. Growing up there, I was into sports. I played basketball, soccer, I was a runner. And when I really got into snowboarding, probably 2001, I was hooked. Skateboarding just wasn’t really a thing because you really didn’t have anywhere to go. My driveway wasn’t good enough to skate on, the roads weren’t good enough. Driving down an old asphalt road, it sucks. When they would repave the basketball court in Oakey Park it was like, “Oh! We’re going to go skate down there.” But then we’d always get kicked out because you weren’t allowed to skateboard there, or really anywhere.

Marsha: And you were getting kicked out alongside Mike Skiba, Grady Tank, Tanner Burch, Ethan Deiss, and tons of others.

Mahler: Exactly. And then finally the town north of us in St. Croix Falls built a skatepark and that was cool, but it was really small and if you didn’t have a car or a ride, you weren’t getting there. What I love about Osceola Skatepark is that it is centrally located right in the middle of town.

Marsha: Mahler, the people need to know this. You grew up how many blocks away from where the skatepark will be?

Mahler: Four blocks! Haha. Kate, my wife, and I just moved a few miles out of town into the country and have a baby on the way. And now, I’m going to have this little person to get on a board and go skate with in my hometown, right down the road from home and work. So that’s going to be really cool. I’m just glad that we will finally actually have this. Looking back to where it started versus now, what I really have noticed is public support grow. Like just one little thing like the fall parade. We do a float, the banner’s are up, we got friends out skating, we’re throwing out little mini skateboards and candy.

Marsha: Knock-off Tech Decks. A crowd favorite, haha.

Mahler: People are so hyped and supportive. So it’s really, really cool and exciting, and I’m proud to see it actually come to fruition. And honestly, if it wasn’t Marsha coming in, taking this over and being the real drive behind it, this still wouldn’t have happened.

Good teamwork.
Marsha: The best teamwork.

Mahler: Marsha really took the ball and shoved it over the cliff and it’s been unstoppable.

Marsha, you didn’t start skating until you were an adult, which is really cool, and you have a background in being around a lot of skatepark building, but this was really the first one that you spearheaded the creation of.
Totally. I grew up in a suburban area of New York which was similar to Trollhaugen in terms of geography, like a commuter town to New York City. I grew up at a ski area, but definitely did not have a skatepark nearby. And so I didn’t start skateboarding until I worked at Windells and had the most amazing skatepark out my window. Oregon and the accessibility of skateparks opened this whole new door for me. I was heavily engrossed in the skatepark building world for many years and got to learn the ins and outs of how a skatepark gets built, and every single project is super different. It was an amazing learning experience. So, when I came to Osceola and bought a house, I was just blown away that there wasn’t a skatepark of quality next to this world-renowned terrain park that rides like a skatepark.

For me, it was a bit of, can I make this happen? Do I have the skillset to make this happen as someone who’s been alongside it, watching it from the periphery for so long? So, not only was it something that I wanted for our community, but it was something to prove to myself that I could take on a project like this and see it through to completion. I gave the chamber a timeline of three to five years, and we are three years later about to have it in the ground. I’ve done a lot of grinding behind the scenes, but none of this would have happened without the people of this community. I’m not from the Midwest but I am so in love with the community that exists and people like Adam Mahler and Boody and Tanner Burch and Chelsea Kruse and Mike Skiba—there’s a zillion names, but this is fully a team effort and I have a hard time when I get credit for it because I don’t like it, haha.

Mahler: She’s a good teacher of humility. I will say, there are a lot of local companies and businesses that have helped, like Ginger and Boyd Dosch, Paul Anderson, Eric Krenz with Osceola Lanes, the list goes on. Eric, who’s one of my really good friends, is now the owner of the bowling alley and he never skateboarded, but he brought his kids down to one of our Go Skate Day events and has fully backed this project. It’s so awesome.

Marsha: So so so many people helped to bring this to life.

One of the things about Trollhaugen is what you all have cultivated there over time is that you have the local population that lives in the area, and the guys that come over from the city, and then you have this ever-growing group of snowboarders that really make this visiting community throughout the year, who have this love and take this pride in being a part of Trollhaugen.
Marsha: Oh yeah. Troll is super special.

Could you talk about that aspect of the greater snowboarding community being a part of Trollhaugen and what it means to have the skatepark there for everyone that comes into town, as well?

Marsha: We hear all the time from people who do not live where we live that Trollhaugen feels like home to them. And we are so lucky to have that sentiment and it is so rewarding to hear that from people. And all of those people, with varying zip codes, have contributed to this project knowing that they will use it every time they come visit, which says a lot. They know they’re coming back, which is really cool.

Mahler: I’m 37, I started there when I was 14, so in the 23 years that I’ve been working there, I would have never thought that it would ever have gotten to where it is now. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought that we have the traction that we have. It’s so cool and I just think that with the skatepark coming, we’re doing stuff with our jobs at a local place that’s going to bring more people to the community. And that’s going to make it better. It’s great.

Richie Conklin and his company, Primary Concrete, are going to build the skatepark, yeah?
Marsha: Richie Conklin is a boarder through and through, and it’s very serendipitous that Richie and Primary Concrete are the chosen builders to make this come to life. He’s the perfect person for the job. He gets what the skatepark should be and he is so talented. He has built skateparks all over the world and he is juiced to be able to bring this to life. It’s going to be a really special build.

Of course, the town just voted to officially give the green light to start the build. When will you guys be breaking ground?
Marsha: We got the official stamp of approval for our plan from the village board, which I am actually a part of! Haha. Basically your local Leslie Knope for skateparks. I just happened to be at Hood for Cutter’s Camp and couldn’t be there, which was stressful, but all went well thankfully. The approval allows us to break ground this July. Our goal is to have the skatepark completed at the end of this summer for it to be a part of the 100 th year celebration of the Osceola Fair that takes place right next to the skatepark. So we get to introduce this unbelievable project to hundreds and hundreds of people that come through and introduce them to skateboarding in a way that they might only know through TV and video games.

Mahler: Yeah, it’s going to be really cool and special.

And finally, you’re still fundraising for things like continued maintenance, and park extras that are necessary and helpful, correct?
Yup. We’re not going to stop raising money. We want to have a cushion in that bank account.

Marsha: Keep the dollars coming! If you believe in this project, help us surpass our goal.

How do people do that?
Donate online at Osceolaskatepark.org, follow us on social media to learn about upcoming fundraising events, and come visit our amazing little community of Osceola, Wisconsin on your way to Trollhaugen!