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Nevis Council seeks to ground skatepark dream in reality

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Nevis City Council member Blair Reuther shared this and other photos that he took recently at the Bde Maka Ska Skate Pop-Up in Minneapolis, showing the possibilities of a less permanent skatepark concept to get local enthusiasts like Liam Gustafson rolling faster and cheaper.
Contributed / Blair Reuther
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The Nevis City Council clarified its position Monday with the family of 12-year-old Liam Gustafson, who is campaigning to bring a skatepark to Nevis.

Exchanges between Mayor Jeanne Thompson and Liam’s mom, Heidi Gustafson, showed that when the city council authorized the Gustafsons to seek a state grant to fund the project, the Gustafsons misunderstood this as approval to build a skate park on city property.

Also, at their Aug. 8 meeting, the council approved Liam’s proposed name of “Wild Tiger Skate Park” for the envisioned facility, to support his efforts to promote the project.

Meantime, it was apparent that there were misconceptions on both sides, with council members stating their belief that the state grant for the project was denied, while Heidi explained that the grant never opened for applications this year. She said a bill is in progress to fund the grant for next year, and they are watching for word of when it will open for applications.

Nevertheless, Thompson and council member Sue Gray recommended touching the brakes and having more discussion, to make sure all proper government procedures are followed.

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“We need to back up with the skatepark a little bit,” said Thompson, “and talk about where we’re at in the process, because I think excitement took people, and we were one place and you were another. We need to just make sure that we’re all moving forward.”

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Liam Gustafson and his mom, Heidi Gustafson, listen to an alternative proposed by council member Blair Reuther during Nevis City Council discussion Sept. 12, 2022 of the skate park Liam has been campaigning to bring to town.
Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise

Gray and Thompson said they needed to see more detailed information about the dimensions of the project, whether there will be space for parking, maintenance costs, whether the city would be on the hook for a financial match if the project is grant funded, and how it will affect their insurance.

Gray emphasized that the city hasn’t approved the location for the skatepark. She said that if it is built, the city will own the skatepark and be responsible for upkeep and liability.

When Heidi argued that her sources said there would be no insurance cost for the skatepark, Thompson disputed this, saying that the situation for larger cities may be different from small towns that have to work with an insurance trust, like the League of Minnesota Cities.

Heidi defended the family’s fundraising efforts, saying that even getting plans drawn up could cost $20,000. She reported $36,000 has already been pledged toward the project, with the Forward Foundation serving as their fiscal agent.

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Asked about upkeep costs, Heidi said according to other cities with skateparks that they have talked with and the Tony Hawk Foundation, if done right, the concrete bowl for the skate park would require zero maintenance for at least 10-20 years.

However, council member and parks commissioner Teresa Leshovsky voiced concern about the effects on concrete of freezing and snowy conditions as well as how the proposed location for the skate park would affect locals’ ability to use the city’s sledding hill.

Council member Blair Reuther also proposed an alternative idea, a “pop-up” skate park using equipment that can be bolted down on a concrete surface, like a parking lot, then removed and stored when not in use.

Reuther argued that a pop-up skatepark, like one that he saw on Lake Bde Maka Ska (formerly Calhoun) in Minneapolis, could happen more quickly and cheaply, at least as a start. He passed around photos of the Bde Maka Ska park.

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Thompson urged the Gustafsons to talk with Leshovsky and the parks commission about all these issues, including Reuther’s proposed compromise.

“I appreciate your hanging onto your passion, Liam,” said Thompson. “It’s not always easy, I know. A lot of red tape and yuck. You just want to skateboard.”

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Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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