By Jeffery L. Carey Jr.
Under threat of rain, more than 75 people were in attendance April 20 for the announcement of plans to build a new skate park for the city of Flint.
The announcement came during this year’s Easter egg hunt and skateboard jam at the existing skate park at the Swartz Creek Golf Course, 1902 Hammerberg Rd. The new skate park would be built on the same site, on the old tennis courts visible from the westbound side of I-69.
The new park, announced at the skate-jam by steering committee member Michael Wright of Flint’s Factory Two, will be planned by a group of local members under the name Flint Sk810, a play on Flint’s area code.
Wright also thanked local skateboarder Dan Wilson for revitalizing the old skate park and “bringing it out [of] the ashes it had fallen into.”
“This project is very similar in many ways to how the city has helped guide and facilitate at the former Mott Park Golf Course, now known as the Mott Park Recreation Area,” said Candice Mushatt, public information officer for the city of Flint, who answered questions from EVM via an email reply.
“The planning and zoning division of the city is responsible for Flint’s publicly owned parks and implementing Imagine Flint Master Plan’s environmental, open space, and park goals,” she said.
The Mott Park project, a “paddler’s landing” on the Flint River, is being built this summer and was financed partly through a “Patronicity” matching funds campaign through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. That project was promoted by a group of Mott Park residents and other local donors in collaboration with the Flint River Watershed Coalition and the city.
“This project is another example of how we work to empower Flint’s residents, volunteers, and partners to plan and implement improvements in parks and neighborhoods,” Mushatt said.
“Ideally, the community-led Flint Sk810 steering committee will research, promote, and guide the project’s design process and planning, and ultimately raise funds and write grants for the skate park,” Mushatt added.
“This is very similar to what has been done at several Flint park properties, including the Mott Park Recreation Area, Max Brandon Park, Berston Fieldhouse and the 45 other parks that have been adopted by Adopt-a-Park groups,” she said. “Partnerships and volunteer groups such as the Friends of Max Brandon and now the Flint Sk810 committee are valuable partners of Flint.”
“In the process of doing our due diligence, city planning staff have contacted and had conversations with several other municipalities, foundations, skate park designers and builders, and several local and national professional skateboarders,” Mushatt said.
“This includes meeting with representatives of the Tony Hawk Foundation to tour potential sites, and to discuss the different grant and funding opportunities their organization and others might be able to provide,” Mushatt explained.
The mission of the Tony Hawk Foundation, as described on their website, is to “promote high-quality, public skate parks in low-income areas throughout the United States, and to support international programs that enrich the lives of youth through skateboarding. Only organizations seeking to build free, public skate parks in low-income communities in the United States may apply for a grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation.”
In attendance at the launch event was also Ann Arbor consultant Trevor Staples, a member of the Friends of Ann Arbor Skatepark. Sk810 members say they hope to use Ann Arbor’s skate park initiative as a model for their own community fundraised initiative.
Currently, the stakeholders involved in this project are Michael Wright, of Factory Two in Flint, a community member on the committee; Zachary Hayes, a student majoring in environmental science and sustainability at the University of Michigan-Flint and who is also part of the city of Flint Master Plan Implementation group through AmeriCorps VISTA – Parks; Adam M. Moore, lead planner in the planning and zoning department forthe city of Flint, who is sponsoring the project and is on the planning committee; and local volunteers Shawn Rust, Brett Pierce, Dan Wilson, William “Mackie” Thomas, Jennings Harper, Jenna Bankston, Thomas Hutchinson, John Guynn, Nick Cotton, Sydney McCarley, Jon Hardman, Polly McCollum, Dave Pietrowski, Drake Allen, Stefanie Bentoski, Jeff Johnson, Angela Stamps, Joe Enriquez, and Nick Welch as chairman, are all on the steering committee.
“In order to assist with this project, the city is working to hire a professional skate park designer to work with the public at large, stakeholders, neighbors, and the Sk810 committee, to design and budget a new park,” Mushatt said. “This process is in its very early stages and will work to ensure a community-designed, multi-use space near the parking lot of the city-owned, Swartz Creek Valley Golf Course.”
Five design companies submitted proposals to the city of Flint on Thursday, April 4, Mushatt added. “The proposals themselves are being reviewed by the city and its purchasing division. The city’s goal in hiring a designer is to allow the Sk810 committee to focus on outreach, building the growing committee, and eventually fundraising for the park.”
The steering committee expects to hold more meetings to finalize their design, but Jennings Harper, of the Brush Alley Skateboard Shop, said he has been personally looking at a company called California Skateparks.
“That’s the most up-to-date and modern style skate park that everyone in California skates and that’s where skateboarding is from, so I want a park like the ones they skate every day,” Harper said.
As for ownership of the new skateboard park, Mushatt said, “Improvements to Flint city parks, regardless of who makes or pays for them, become the property of the city of Flint. Ultimately, the long-term maintenance of the 70 public recreation and open space properties, and the public amenities in them, are the responsibility of the city.
“The city does enter into partnership agreements, leases, or other formal agreements with private, public, non-profit, and governmental organizations, stakeholders, or community volunteers, to raise funds for new amenities to conduct maintenance of existing amenities,” she said.
Mushatt said the city has worked with a number of local and national partners to build new playgrounds in Flint parks. She stated the playgrounds were bought and installed by a mix of partners and volunteers, though they become the property of the city.
“While fundraising to build those playgrounds, a maintenance fund was also created, and park adopter relationships formed. General day-to-day maintenance, such as picking up litter, changing trash bags, painting, etc. is handled by volunteer groups coordinated by the city and Keep Genesee County Beautiful, a program of the Genesee County Parks, which operates the Adopt-a-Park program.”
Mushatt said the fund also pays for hiring contractors to make improvements or install replacement parts, where a professional is required. While the details have yet to be worked out, a similar arrangement to this will be sought with the Flint Sk810 committee.
Sponsored by the newly formed Sk810 steering committee, DIY Flint, Brush Alley Skateboard Shop, and the Recycle Bike Shop and Mobile Bike Repair of Flint, the April 20 event included children and adults alike, as children were able to meet the Easter Bunny as he skated around the park during the egg hunt.
Also featured at the event was local artist Zeb Molina, who created a large mural of a skull wearing a baseball cap. The performance artist used spray paint to create a nearly seven-foot-tall piece. Free food, vendor tables for the sponsors, and prizes including tee-shirts and free skateboards rounded out the day.
Banner photo of skateboarders hanging out by Darlene Carey.
EVM Staff Writer Jeffery L. Carey, Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.