Mitchell community welcomes $120K skate park expansion

·5 min read

Jul. 23—As skateboarders carved through the new concrete pool Friday afternoon at the Dry Run Creek Skate Park, a large smile grew across Nathan Powell's face.

For the past couple of years, Powell, the Parks and Recreation Director, has been pushing to expand Mitchell's only skate park. Now that the 2,800 square-foot addition is complete, city officials ushered in the skate park expansion Friday afternoon in front of a handful of local skateboarders and community leaders during a ribbon cutting ceremony.

"This is what it's all about," Powell said, as he watched a local skateboarder grind down a rail in a section of the new addition. "This is just an awesome expansion, and it will bring a lot more people to the park, which is the goal. We had tremendous support from the community on this project, and it's great to have another outdoor activity that's accessible for all."

When Powell arrived roughly five years ago to take on the role as the city's Parks and Recreation Director, he noticed the skate park that sits along Burr Street was in "rough shape." A couple small quarter pipes that were withering away, a small handrail and ledge were the only obstacles skateboarders, rollerbladers and BMX bikers had to work with.

But Powell was determined to revamp the skate park and bring more features to the outdoor recreation area in hopes of providing the community with a much "bigger and better skate park" that had features for all levels of extreme sports enthusiasts.

"It was in rough shape, but I was surprised to see it get used as often as it was," Powell said. "With the number of people who regularly used it, I knew it was a project well worth investing in."

Community support helps project come to life

Community members and local businesses donated $22,000 for the project in the fundraising campaign that kicked off two years ago. In 2020, the skate park addition received its biggest boost when the state awarded the Parks and Recreation Department a $53,000 grant that was part of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, bringing the fundraising total to $75,000. The Mitchell City Council picked up the rest of the project costs in September 2020 by approving $47,000 for the project.

As one of the Mitchell skateboarders who helped fundraise for the project, Michael Miller is proud of the finished product. Looked at by many skateboarders in the community as a local pioneer of the sport, Miller was among the group of skaters who pushed to get the first skate park built in Mitchell roughly 20 years ago, which was built at a different location.

After carving up the wall of the concrete pool, Miller said he's still in shock that the expansion came to life. However, he's even more shocked to see the sport of skateboarding grow to what it's become now at both the local and national level. He pointed to the growing acceptance of skateboarding as something that helped the community support the project.

"I remember the days when skateboarding was frowned upon and looked down on. People used to look at skateboarding like it was something only renegades did, but now more people see it as a healthy activity for all just like anything else," Miller said. "It's awesome to see people in the city and Nate (Powell) respect skateboarding. And this expansion shows that better than anything."

The expansion was built by one of the most well-known skate park builders in the country, American Ramp Company and Pivot Custom Parks. The group of experienced builders travel across the world to build skate parks and additions. They began construction in early June and finished the entire project in a little over a month.

Cody Denne, owner of Ron's Bike Shop, was among the local business leaders who advocated for the expansion project. As a rollerblader and former BMX biker, Denne said he loves that the new addition can be used for such a wide variety of extreme sports.

Above all else, Denne said it's awesome to see the city show its support for extreme sports, which he noted is "rare" in many areas of the country.

"This is something that will get used often, and it will get more kids outside away from the computer and TV," he said. "It's awesome to see Nate's (Powell) passion for extreme sports, because they usually don't get the same attention as traditional athletics. This new setup will get more kids interested in trying new sports and activities."

For Casey Nespor, the new skate park expansion has inspired him to get back on the board. Due to the rugged setup and tight space of the old skate park, Nespor said it made it hard to skate.

But with the 2,800-square-foot addition that was completed in early July, Nespor has become a regular face again at the Dry Run Creek Skate Park.

"I love the new setup, and it's got me back on the board skating like I used to. It's just great that I can bring the kids here and be able to skate together and enjoy being outside," Nespor said. "The park now has something for everyone."

Nespor, Denne and Miller's excitement for the expansion is exactly what Powell was hoping to achieve with the project.

As the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are underway, Powell said the completion of the skate park expansion couldn't have come at a better time. That's because for the first time in Olympic history, women's and men's skateboarding will be an event that athletes from across the world will be competing in this summer.

"Skateboarding has evolved, and it's become more popular. The support we had for this project I think showed that," Powell said.

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