Skatepark searches for facelift
One-time cutting-edge park hopes to regain former glory

Sidebar: A look inside the plan

Local skateboarder Nathan Gochnour drops into the bowls at the Durango Skatepark off of Roosa Ave. on Monday. Once a cutting-edge facility, the Durango park has fallen behind the times, and local skaters and city officials hope to bring it into the 21st century with a new plan. /Photo by Todd Newcomer.

It’s been criticized as being too small, too crowded and having too little variety, and beginning this week, more than $300,000 is being infused into the Durango Skatepark. But when the work is complete, drainage and parking will be improved, but none of the recreational features of the park will have changed. However, city officials, local skaters and a skate park architect are hoping that next year, the once legendary park will be expanded, placing it once again at the top of its game.

The Durango Skatepark broke new ground in 1996, not only in the space off of Roosa Ave. and adjacent to the Animas River, but throughout the state. At the time, the local park represented the first facility in Colorado to be subsidized and created by a municipality. Local skater Pete Sakadinsky designed the park on a “bar napkin” and worked with the city to bring about its construction. He credits the city of Durango for bringing it to fruition.

“Historically, there should be a big kudos to the city for bucking up and doing this,” he said. “At the time, skateboarding was a crime. Durango set precedence statewide and nationally for throwing money at this thing and figuring out how to handle the liability.”

Sakadinsky continued, “There are over a hundred skateparks in Colorado that have been based on this boilerplate.”

Ryder Okamura balances on his front wheel at the skatepark Monday. The city of Durango has tentatively earmarked $378,000 to build a bigger and better skatepark next summer./Photos by Ben Eng & Todd Newcomer.

While he praises these past efforts and the park, Sakadinsky, who still skates today at age 33, said it’s high time for an upgrade. “The first park was really a band-aid,” he said. “Now that we’ve proven it can be successful, the city really needs to up the ante.”

Speaking to the need for improvements, Sakadinsky added: “How often do you drive by empty tennis courts or ballfields? Regardless of the weather, there is someone at that skatepark every day of the year.”

Stew Raffalo is another local skater in his early 30s who has been involved with the park since its creation. Like Sakadinsky, Raffalo said it’s beyond time for an upgrade. “Durango is nowhere near the top of the list in terms of destination skateparks anymore,” he said.

Raffalo added that not only is the park outdated, it has had problems since it was first constructed. “Parks are built better now,” he said. “The contractor who was in charge really had no idea about the parts of the park that had to be skateboard specific. The park became obsolete in too short a time, really.”

Sakadinsky concurred that the park has problems. However, he said that the realities of the mid-1990s were not conducive to skatepark construction.

“The specs are a little off,” he said. “The bowls are a little shallower and a little slower than they should be, and there’s been a lot of criticism on the deal. But that’s fine. We went from design to completion in six months.”

Regardless of the past, the city is in agreement that the clover-shaped, pool-style skatepark needs a serious facelift, said Cathy Metz, director of parks and recreation and the person Sakadinsky credits most with creating the park in the first place. Over the past couple years, the city has met with local skaters in an effort to address the community’s changing needs.

Paul Johnson pulls a frontside air. Photos by Ben Eng and Todd Newcomer

“It was a great start, and I think people have generally been happy with it,” she said. “But what we’ve heard is that skaters would like a larger park with more versatile challenges for all skill levels.”

To this end, the city contracted with Scottsdale, Ariz.’s Academy Skatepark Design to come up with an addition, and those plans were completed last summer. Beginning this week, the city also began addressing some of the park’s other problems. While drainage and parking fixes will have little to do with the skating experience, Metz said that they are necessary expenditures. To the tune of $338,250, drainage spilling off Roosa Avenue will be culverted and sent to the Animas underground, and the potholed and muddy parking lot will be paved.

For this summer, Parks and Recreation has tentatively budgeted $378,000 to make Academy Skatepark’s design a reality. Whether the City Council will allocate that sum to a park that originally cost $90,000 will be determined this fall.

Raffalo said that the proposed design looks good, and if everything comes together, Durango will again have a nationally renowned park. “The possibility’s there that this will be a destination park and attract a bunch of people from all over,” he said.

However, he stressed that things must be done properly. “Hopefully, with the right layout and design and work carried out by the right contractor, we should be looking good for the future,” he said. “I’d like to see the whole process be meticulous with concentration on the details. I think the biggest problem with our current park was the city kind of winged it.”

Meanwhile, heavy equipment is hard at work, alleviating the drainage problems. Whether similar machines will be working to expand the skatepark next year, hinges on the City Council and this fall’s budget process.









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