GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For the first time in Grand Rapids’ history, BMX bikes, skateboards, skates and scooters can now grind the rails downtown.
The skate, bike and scoot park opened at 555 Monroe Ave. NW Friday. The facility has been part of the city’s vision for more than a decade, making it into the River For All, City of Grand Rapids Parks Department and GR Forward plan.
“This has been something the community has craved for years and it’s not something that we have had here locally in our downtown, specifically. We have smaller skate facilities in other neighborhoods of downtown, but not anything right downtown,” said Kimberly Van Driel, director of public space management for Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.
Van Driel says the new park keeps riders and their economic impact downtown while giving “kids and adults a new place to play.”
The facility was designed and built by A.G.A. Nation based on input from the local skate, scoot and bike community. The rails, ramps and grind ledges are made from concrete and synthetic materials that will be checked twice annually to ensure they’re properly maintained.
Friday afternoon, onlookers lined the park as dozens of riders tested out the obstacles.
“It’s a gloomy day, it’s been raining all day, it even hailed and you know, we still have a really good crowd of people out so it just goes to show the importance it is for this community,” Van Driel said.
The park also features bicycle, skateboard and scooter parking and a bicycle repair station. Van Driel says a skateboard repair station is coming soon, along with more local artwork.
Some murals already adorn the blue asphalt. Local artist Sophie Rodriguez added her own splash of color to the barriers bordering the pop-up park, and a temporary installation of glowing seesaws will take up some of the lot during next year’s World of Winter Festival.
The park will be open year-round, weather permitting. It’s expected to remain at the Monroe North lot until the space is needed as a staging site for the Grand River restoration project.
“The way that this is built, these ramps that are built will last anywhere from 10 to 15 years, so we could stay here if we want to. It just depends on what the need is,” Van Driel said, adding that the equipment can be moved to another site if necessary.
The Downtown Development Authority approved up to $200,000 for the pilot project in March, just days before COVID-19 prompted shutdowns and stalled construction, ultimately delaying the park’s opening for months.
With the pandemic persisting, visitors are encouraged to wear face masks. Hand sanitizing stations are available on site and city employees will regularly clean and sanitize the area.
In spring, the park will also serve as a learning space. Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. says it’s teaming up with various organizations to teach bicycle, skateboarding and scooter classes.
“It’s good for your mental health, your physical health and it’s just a good thing to do. It’s fun and something new to try,” said Van Driel.