Another skateboard season, and still no Madison skatepark. As enthusiasts flock to existing skateparks in smaller Dane County communities, the absence of one in Wisconsin's capital grows ever more conspicuous.
The $750,000 skatepark envisioned as part of Madison's Central Park development remains a half-pipe dream. While the city has allocated $300,000 toward the facility in its 2013 capital budget, the grass-roots Madison Skatepark Fund's campaign to make up the difference has a long way to go.
Alumni Board Shop owner David Mayhew, one of the fundraising campaign's key figures, attributes this to uncertainty over track siting for the aborted high-speed rail route. With those questions dispelled, fundraising efforts are starting to ramp up. "This is our year to really get on the grants and go after donors," says Mayhew. The group has even recruited an experienced grant writer to pursue more significant contributions.
Patrick Hasburgh, who spearheads the Madison Skatepark Fund, estimates its current balance at "a couple thousand dollars" but expresses optimism. Plans for Central Park designate almost 20,000 square feet for the skatepark; Action Sports Development, a California firm, is designing the facility. And the computer-generated schematic will help with the fundraising. It depicts a broad concrete plaza with a pool-like bowl, ramps, ledges, banks, rails, boxes, steps and other features attractive to skateboarders and in-line skaters.
Hasburgh anticipates a series of public meetings starting as early as this summer to gather feedback, fine-tune the design to accommodate beginners as well as intermediate and advanced users, and generate a sense of community ownership.
Meanwhile, he invites the public to visit the fund's website at madisonskatepark.com or to call 608-692-3459 for more info.
While they wait for Madison's skatepark, skateboard and in-line skating enthusiasts here have no shortage of options elsewhere in Dane County.
Cross Plains parks and recreation director Mike Axon says that since its facility debuted at Baer Park in 2009, it has been a magnet for residents as well as kids from neighboring communities. Measuring 90 by 45 feet, its concrete deck is furnished with moveable rails, ramps and steps.
Axon has been impressed by how little upkeep the Cross Plains skatepark has required. There's been some littering, and convincing kids to wear helmets is an ongoing effort, but on balance, he says, "The park has been a blessing."
McFarland public-works director Allan Coville echoes that sentiment in discussing his community's skatepark. "One thing you'll hear a constant complaint about is kids skateboarding on sidewalks and strip-mall areas," he says, "and this gives kids a place where they can skate" without drawing grief.
Middleton may have the ne plus ultra of Dane County skateparks. At 10,000 square feet, it includes stairs, rails, platforms, coping bars and a large rectangular bowl.
Opened in 2001 at Quarry Park, across from Capital Brewery, it now draws lots of kids from Madison, says Middleton parks and public lands director Penni Klein, but also visitors from as far as La Crosse and Wausau. Maintenance amounts to little more than removing the occasional graffiti and resurfacing stair edges as needed. An in-line skate racer in her youth, Klein suggests the lack of vandalism may be attributable to skaters' protectiveness toward what she calls a "nice, smooth, gorgeous in-ground skatepark."
You hear the same thing in other communities: With some inevitable exceptions, skateboard enthusiasts tend to police themselves and the resource.
"It's probably one of our most heavily used park facilities," Monona parks and recreation director Jake Anderson says of the cement deck and half-pipe near Monona's municipal pool and Dream Park. Its demographics range in age from 5 to 45, he says, though they are dominated by males between 16 and 24. The city's recreation department even offers skateboard lessons at the park.
Mount Horeb opened a 9,000-square-foot skatepark in 2008 near its new water tower. Oregon's skatepark debuted in 2003, measuring 80 by 100 feet. Sun Prairie is considering an 8,000-square-foot addition to its existing skatepark.
This is not an exhaustive list, but the bottom line is this: Madison is among a dwindling number of Dane County communities that lack a skatepark - an embarrassment compounded by the fact that it is far and away the county's largest city.
Madison parks director Kevin Briski says that final recommendations for the Central Park plan will be presented in May. Pending Common Council and mayoral approvals, he foresees breaking ground for the skatepark in 2013 - assuming the Madison Skatepark Fund reaches its fundraising goals. Briski is optimistic: "They have great energy and a great project."