When you’re ripping around a concrete bowl at the Rio Grande skate park in Aspen at full speed, the last thing you want to come rolling into your path is the wayward board of a young skater who just flubbed a kickflip.
“The biggest problem is little kids trying to do street tricks around the bowls, and having their skateboards fall into the bowls,” said Eric Allen, 28, a Basalt resident who’s been skating at the Aspen park since it opened in 2000.
The city of Aspen took input from about 50 skaters like Allen this week, as staffers in the parks and recreation department held two open houses at the park to start drafting an expansion plan.
Allen said the skate park needs a separate street skating section, to mix up the terrain and give kids a place to biff their kickflips in peace.
“They need quarter pipes on each side; it would be nice to have a wedge ramp; a pyramid is always nice; and maybe a little bowled-out corner,” he said.
Steve Cronin, the city’s landscape designer, said most of the skaters he’s talked to so far would seem to agree with Allen, and the most logical place for a new street section is the basketball court just north of the existing park.
“Most people are looking for a street-skate type of theme, since our park is all bowls,” Cronin said.
“We have a bit of an elevation loss between the park and the basketball court area, which could be ideal for stairs, or drop-in ramps.”
Adam Longnecker, 39, who gives skateboarding lessons at the park through his company, All Star Adventures, said: “What I’m hoping to see [added] is just elements that aren’t in parks around here,” he said. “We need to see some creative ledges, some creative gaps, stuff that you’d find on the street somewhere. I also like the use of different materials besides concrete, maybe some marble, some brick.”
The survey that Cronin distributed this week (it’s also posted on the city’s website) asks skaters to identify any issues with the current skate park, and it asks whether a new street-skating section is the most needed improvement. It also asks whether the clover bowl feature, a deep set of bowls on the eastern edge of the park, should be removed to make room for something else.
“Most people are saying that it would be a bad idea to remove it, but it’s not utilized as much as the two large bowls we have out there,” Cronin said. “It’s harder than the other ones, and it’s used more by the expert skaters.”
Cronin has $25,000 in city funds for public outreach and preliminary design of the expanded skate park — he said he’s not sure whether funding for an eventual expansion would come out of his department’s budget or from the city’s general fund.
Although the vast majority of comments that Cronin got this week were reportedly in favor of an expanded street-skating section, representatives of Theatre Aspen, which uses a stage near the skate park, said they did have some noise-related concerns.
“Being in a park has inherent challenges, and the basketball court in the current design provides a slight buffer for us, because it’s not used as much as the skate park,” said Paige Price, the organization’s theater director. “There are so many things that we compete with that it would be nice if [the expanded area] was behind a berm of some sort.”
After this week’s round of public input, Cronin said the next step is to hire a skate park designer to draft a preliminary plan for presentation to Aspen City Council.
“In a perfect world, we would break ground spring or early summer next year,” he said.
Florida-based skate park contractor Team Pain designed the Aspen park, and Cronin said he hoped the company would be interested in building the expansion as well.
“This park has held up better than most in the valley,” said Cronin. “Overall, the company did a really good job, and although we’ll have to do the standard bidding process for a contract, we do hope that they’re interested.”
In the early days, the tentative plan for a skate park expansion was to keep building to the east, where the Rio Grande Recycle Center now sits. With that facility in place, though, Cronin said expanding onto the basketball court is a better option.
A hoop could even be left standing, he said, so that people could play basketball when there’s no skate park traffic.