A city that invests in its kids will prosper.
Young people started riding skateboards, bikes and scooters over the contours of Terre Haute’s newest skate park days before Thursday’s official ribbon-cutting ceremony. That eagerness illuminates the value of the new facility inside Sheridan Park on the city’s north side.
The development of the skate park shows ingenuity and community spirit.
City officials closed Sheridan Park’s pool in 2011, citing its maintenance costs. Its bowl sat empty for years, as options for the space were mulled.
Then, Terre Haute company Groundworkz Construction told the city it could convert the old pool into a skate park by reinforcing its bowl and covering the curvaceous space with concrete. Parks Superintendent Eddie Bird, parks maintenance director George Cesinger and Mayor Duke Bennett studied the proposal and realized its cost only slightly exceeded the estimated expense of filling in the pool.
The city decided to drop in, to borrow a skateboarding phrase.
Thanks to the use of reusable materials — such as the fence that formerly surrounded the pool to create “grind rails” that skateboarders slide across — and the old pool bowl itself, the construction cost totaled a modest $90,000. When the donations of materials are figured in, the skate park’s bottom-line cost was only $60,000.
“We got some great donations, and the idea was to put something up here for the kids in this end of town,” Bennett said. “And why not a skate park?”
That same question helped put Terre Haute on the skate park map earlier this century. A group of community residents and kids met with then-city parks superintendent Greg Ruark in the Vigo County Public Library on March 30, 2004. They believed a skate park that could accommodate skateboarding, roller blading and cycling would benefit young, energetic people and could draw visitors from the region. They explained the idea to Ruark, representing then-Mayor Kevin Burke’s administration.
“I’m going to do whatever I can, because I think it’s a great idea,” Ruark said before that meeting.
It took more than four years and perseverance through election-influenced roadblocks, but Terre Haute finally got its first skate park inside Voorhees Park along Prairieton Road on the city’s south side. It opened Oct. 27, 2008. “This has been a long time coming,” said city parks board President John L. Wright that day, emphasizing that “kids in the community and parents took interest.”
The Voorhees skate park cost $300,000 to build, but was a start-from-scratch initiative, rather than a reuse project. It has drawn skateboarders, cyclists and roller-bladers for nearly 13 years. “There are 20 to 30 kids down there on given days,” Bird said at Thursday’s opening day for the sister facility at Sheridan Park. Bird and the mayor said longtime plans to expand Voorhees’ skate park remain valid.
“I think that is our destination park for that kind of event,” Bennett said, “but we need to put things in other parts of the community.”
Now, north side young people will not have to trek south to Voorhees to test their skateboarding skills and get some exercise.
Rich Moore, manager of Vigo County’s mountain biking mecca Griffin Bike Park, attended Thursday’s debut of the Sheridan skate park. He pointed out the community’s growing number of amenities for exercising and nature-seeking on wheels or by foot. “It is awesome,” Moore said.
Indeed, it is. The Voorhees has proven to be a worthwhile investment for kids’ health and enjoyment. The same will be true for Sheridan Park. Terre Haute’s quality of life just got better.