Larry Kline and Nikki Carlson
Havre Daily News
The long process to give Havre skateboarders a place to practice ollies, kickflips and grinds came to an official end Wednesday morning with the dedication of the Havre community skate park.
The park, located on the north side of Robert Patterson Memorial Park, was completed last fall and has already been getting some use.
Havre High School senior Valley Lopez, 17, said he and his friends use the park every day, weather permitting. Prior to the park's construction, they would perform tricks at the Heritage Center or on the Montana State University-Northern campus.
"We're just glad to have a skate park," Lopez said. "I'm happy to have some place to skate on."
Giving kids like Lopez and his friends a recreational home was exactly what Havre Mayor Bob Rice had in mind when he made a campaign promise four years ago to get the park completed. Rice said the park is as nice as others in the United States and Canada.
"Before I became mayor, the kids used to get a lot of tickets downtown for skating, and the businesses didn't want them around," Rice said after the dedication ceremony. "Kids now have a place to go."
Havre Skateboard Association vice president Luke Donaldson, a skateboarder himself, said hard work by a number of people has made the park a reality and given kids a place to practice their sport.
"Anything that is a place where kids can go and have good, positive, clean fun, stay out of trouble and have physical activity is well worth anything," Donaldson said. "It's better than them running the streets and getting in trouble."
The park not only offers a safe environment for kids, it also makes them better skateboarders, Donaldson said.
"It gives them something that challenges them in their sport that they can't get on the sidewalk," he said. "The ramps really make a difference and challenge them. You can only get so good on flat ground."
The park measures 60 feet by 160 feet, and features ramps, rails and a cement skating bowl.
Skateboard Association secretary Lita Thisselle said she became involved after hearing about the project on the radio. Her son was a skateboarder, and she once nearly hit him with her car when she was driving up a hill he was skating down. Kids shouldn't have to skate in the streets because they have no other place, she said.
"I thought I could spare some other poor mother that heart attack of almost killing your kid," Thisselle said. "(The park) gives them a safe place to practice their art, and it also protects people's property."
Rice said he appreciated the help he got from everyone who was involved with the project. He said city park foreman Kris Bakke was instrumental in getting the park built.
"The thing I've learned about Kris Bakke is that when he puts his mind to something, he gets it done," Rice said. "He's been a tremendous asset to me and to the Parks and Rec and to the city in general."
Lopez said that while he appreciates the park, there is one problem: Some people throw rocks into the park, which creates a safety hazard. Rice gave the skaters brooms to keep the area free of debris, but someone has broken them, Lopez said.
"I just wish people would ... take care of our equipment," he said.
The park cost about $92,000, city finance director Lowell Swenson said. At one point, the city expected to be about $35,000 short of what it needed to pay for the park. In February, the Havre City Council agreed to use $20,000 the city had raised from a sale of land to use toward making up the difference.
Rice said Wednesday he will ask council members to approve using money the city has saved to pay off the rest. Rice said the city saved money by not hiring Chris Inman as the full-time parks and recreation director until the beginning of April. Inman replaced Dave Wilson, who stepped down at the end of last year. The city has not yet hired an aquatics director to fill Inman's old position.
Swenson said the savings between the two positions will cover the remaining costs.
Rice said the city is still trying to recover all of the $15,700 deposit it paid to a equipment manufacturer.
The city has received more than $3,000 of that money back from a distributor that was going to sell it equipment made by Edmonton, Alberta-based Vertigone, Rice said. The plan went awry when Vertigone went out of business in the spring of 2004. The money that has been returned was the distributor's commission, he said.
John Tansowny, owner of the another Edmonton company, Rec Ramps Fabricating, said his company now manufacturers the brand name equipment formerly made by Vertigone. Tansowny said he has supplied the equipment for the Havre park at cost. The retail value of the equipment is $30,000, and Tansowny said he supplied it for about $20,000.
"I wanted to see some of the customers that had not been supplied get taken care of," Tansowny said in a telephone interview. "We supplied a pretty nice skateboard park for our cost."