With help from city, skaters organizing to build new parkNov 8, 2012 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer
Skateboarders, BMX bikers and inline skaters have formed the Central Wyoming Skateboarding Association to clean up skateboarding's image and try to build a new skate park in Riverton.
The group started about six months ago, now has regular meetings, and hopes to become a 501(c)3 organization.
The idea for the group started with Chris McNeil, 51, and Matt Wright, 29, who were concerned with the state of the skate park in Riverton. David Lain, 22, also spoke to the city council about the skate park earlier this year.
McNeil and Wright decided "we ought to organize the kids," said McNeil.
They soon started working with Lain and other skaters. Wright has been skateboarding for 12 years, but McNeil does not skate.
McNeil said he brings experience working with recreation clubs, as he has taught ATV and snowmobile safety for the state.
On Nov. 3 the club officially opened enrollment; it now has about 20 members who range in age from 8 to 51. Most are in their teens, several are in their early 20s, and a few are older.
Wright estimates there are 150 people around Riverton who skateboard, inline skate, or ride BMX bikes.
Bronwyn Wright, secretary treasurer of the club and Matt's wife, said, "It's like any sport. It needs facilities to be successful."
Lain, a member of the association, said the current skate park has a bad reputation as a hangout for drug and alcohol users.
"The skate park doesn't necessarily attract them, but it facilitates that," he said.
McNeil added that some families will not let their kids skate at the skate park.
One such young skater was skating at the park on Nov. 3. Collin McLaughlin cannot come on his own but went that day with Matt and Bronwyn Wright, who are friends of his family.
"His mom won't let him come without us," Bronwyn Wright said.
Matt Wright added that the number of people using the skate park has diminished over time.
By organizing the skaters, Lain said, the association hopes to change skating's bad reputation.
"We are going to form a community within the community to point kids in the right direction," he said.
Wright said many of the ramps and rails that the city built at the park are worn out. Some ramps became so worn that the city removed them, he said.
Skaters have responded by building ramps and rails themselves.
"That's some of the most-skated stuff," Wright said.
Still, there are not enough ramps when the park is busy. On Nov. 3, about 20 skaters were at the park, but several were sitting on their boards or bikes, waiting for a turn.
"This isn't that common of an image (at other skate parks)," Bronwyn Wright said. "There's not a lot of things to skate at this park."
The new association plans to raise $75,000 through grants and membership dues to repair the skate park or build a new one. The City of Riverton has pledged to match $25,000 that the group raises.
The skater group hopes to win one grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation. Started by professional skateboarder Tony Hawk, the foundation awards grants to public skate park projects.
Bill Urbigkit, director of public services for Riverton, said the city council allocated $25,000 for a skate park as part of the local capital improvement plan.
He said the goal was to see improvement and better use of the Riverton City Park, and that fits in with the city's overall goals.
Urbigkit said the city council put the $25,000 in the budget hoping that it would inspire a group from the community to come forward and partner with the city.
"We're looking forward to working with the kids," he said.
"I'm 54 years old. I'm not going to ride a skateboard, " Urbigkit said. "We're going to let them tell us what they want, and as long as it's within reason we'll do it."
He added, though, that the city is focused on using its funds to improve the existing skate park and not build a new one.
Besides raising money, McNeil said the skateboarding club will bring in professionals on Nov. 15 to help them design the park.
Membership dues are $25 and entitle a person to voting rights in the club and access to club events such as barbecues and trips to other skate parks.
Anyone can join at a meeting or online at http://www.centralwyosa.com.
The club also accepts donations at the website.