Fundraising effort to improve Grand Rapids skate park

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Skateboarders will be the first to tell you that Grand Rapids doesn’t have much to offer them.

Save one tiny skate park on the city’s West Side and other small parks surrounding the city, what you see at the Clemente Skate Park is what you get for local skaters. Now there’s a renewed community effort to improve that park — and the city government could eventually be pitching in.

Chris Gray, 32, is part of the effort to make the skating at Clemente better. For him, both work and play is spent with four wheels and a wooden board — he works at a skate supplies and shoe shop.

“I feel like skateboarding raised me,” said Gray, who is also the chairman of the Clemente Skate Park Committee. “It’s something that’s growing. Especially in youth.”

The Clemente Skate Park is a true DIY project.

“Made by the skaters for the skaters,” Matthew Eggebeen, another skater, told 24 Hour News 8.

Six years ago, the city handed over the abandoned basketball courts at the park to the skating community. The skate park has gradually grown since then. It’s not much to the layman’s eye, but the skaters who added element after element are proud of it.

“We’re taking it into our own hands,” Eggebeen said of the improvements.

This year, worn-out wooden ramps have been scrapped and the skaters have set a goal to build more at Clemente than during the previous six years combined.

“This is a frame for a 6-foot quarter pipe and this is going to be the beginning of a very big process,” Eggebeen said, showing 24 Hour News 8 the start of the new projects.

An online fundraiser for improvements at the Clemente Skate Park has raised big money in short time. The GoFundMe page has racked up more than four grand in just two days.

“Just seeing that means so much,” Gray said.

“That says there’s a giant demand for more stuff to skate,” Eggebeen added. “There’s a lot of people that want to go out and skate. This is cool, but they want more.”

The City of Grand Rapids renovated the Westown Commons Park last year, adding a small skate park. There has also been talk of creating a big downtown skate park — something more accessible for all ages — but those talks have stalled as finding the right location has proven challenging. That means the city could eventually turn to Clemente Park and help fund renovations.

“So if a downtown site doesn’t pan out, I think this is a good fit. Clemente, clearly we’ve got this sort of ad hoc skate element here that’s been here for a number of years. It’s working, it’s a draw,” said David Marquardt, the director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Grand Rapids.

Marquardt says the entire park is on the docket for potential upgrades come 2017-2018 — but that timeframe could inch closer depending on funding and community interest.——Online: DIY Clemente Skate Park GoFundMe page

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