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The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell opens new skatepark downtown


After two and a half years of dedicated fundraising and construction, the new and improved Bailey Park Skatepark has opened in Grinnell. Located at the corner of 8th Avenue and Prince Street, the skate park is a welcome addition for people of all ages looking to improve their skating, scooter or bike skills, or just to have fun.

Cadon, 14, goes to the new skate park almost everyday after school. He’s been skating since he was 4, and often watches videos of pro skateboarders to improve his skills. Currently, he’s perfecting a trick called the 180. In Cadon’s view, the skatepark is a hugely positive addition to the town because before it was built, there weren’t many options for places for high school students in Grinnell to skate safely and freely.

“Sometimes a cop would stop me,” he said. Cadon also commented on the ability of the skatepark to build community. “Even if we don’t know each other, we still talk,” he said, referring to the friends he’s made skating at the park.

Trent, 18, who just graduated from Grinnell High School, has been skating on and off for 4 years. “[The skatepark] is pretty awesome, coming from what we had. A couple of years ago we had wood ramps, but the city didn’t really keep up on them, so we had nothing for a few years. Finally getting a skatepark was pretty awesome,” he said.

A few years ago, when the idea of building a new skatepark was brought to the City, they were supportive of the idea, according to Tim Ellsworth, Board Member of Imagine Grinnell, the organization who led the Bailey Park Skatepark project. “The City was totally, 100 percent behind it,” Ellsworth said, “But they had no money.”

The fundraising for the park was achieved through the collective efforts of the City, the College, Imagine Grinnell, and community members. Imagine Grinnell is organization that leads initiatives, campaigns, and projects that promote healthy, sustainable community life in Grinnell. The new skatepark is the realization of their latest campaign.

The idea for the skatepark originated with Sean Walters, of the Grinnell Parks and Recreation Department, and Rich Dana, Director of Imagine Grinnell. The main concern of the project was ensuring people of all ages and economic backgrounds have access to high-quality community spaces that are free to the public. Unlike youth sports that may require fees or expensive equipment, skateboarding has a low bar to participation, which allows for more class diversity within the sport.

Fundraising for the project was kickstarted by the Tony Hawk Foundation, which awards money to help build public skateparks. A roller derby team in Grinnell also held a scrimmage to fundraise for the park. According to Ellsworth, the crowd at the roller derby event represented the inclusivity of sports like skateboarding and roller derby. Students from the College and Grinnell-Newburg High School alike showed up. “It was the most diverse of any group I’ve even seen at Grinnell,” Ellsworth said.

The College eventually matched the funds raised by Imagine Grinnell and other community members. This was supplemented by direct mailing and fundraising dinners. In just two and a half years, they raised around $220,000. Ellsworth estimated that similar projects usually take small cities five to ten years to achieve.

Ellsworth emphasized the potential for the newly completed skatepark to build bridges within the Grinnell community. “The skatepark is one of the few things a Grinnell College student can do alongside high schoolers, middle schoolers, people of all ages and backgrounds in the town,” he said.

In addition to the community benefits, there are plenty of physical and mental health benefits. “There’s so much more going on in terms of friendships and mentoring, instead of being on a screen,” Ellsworth continued.

It’s located a few blocks away from campus, but college students like James Msekela ’19 are already frequenting the skatepark.

“When we heard about the park, we were mad excited,” Msekela said. Before the park was built, he and his friends would just skate around campus locations like the golf course, or behind the JRC. “There wasn’t anything as solid as [the skatepark.] Now we actually have somewhere to go,” he said.

On September 28th, Imagine Grinnell and the Bailey Park Skatepark will be hosting the Grinnell Skatepark Grand Opening Jam. The event, which runs from 10AM to 6PM, will include food, live music, workshops for new riders and more.

Construction for Grinnell’s skatepark finished summer of 2019. Photo by Andrew Tucker
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