Ramping up in Cape

Thursday, October 30, 2003
Louie Norden of Cape Girardeau rode up a quarter pipe at the new skateboard park at Missouri Park on Wednesday. A donation of $15,000 from the Cape Girardeau Evening Optimists allowed the city to buy ramps and other equipment for the park.

Cody McMinn raced up and down the metal ramps on his skateboard even as darkness fell Wednesday night at Cape Girardeau's new skate park.

"It's pretty good," said the 12-year-old boy as his father, Gary McMinn, looked on.

The McMinns live near the new skate park, a fenced area that previously housed two tennis courts in little used Missouri Park at Fountain Street and Park Drive.

The city began installing metal ramps last Friday, and skateboarders began rolling over the weekend even though city crews didn't get some of the equipment bolted down until Wednesday. The official dedication is scheduled for Nov. 8 at 9 a.m.

Skateboarders have long pushed for a skateboard park where they could enjoy skating without objections from property owners and police who don't want them skating on private property.

The Cape Girardeau Evening Optimists donated $15,000 in bingo proceeds to pay for the metal equipment -- six ramps, two rails and a rectangular platform.

The concrete, former tennis court surface was painted, along with the fence around it. Parks department crews did the work.

Dan Muser, parks director, said the equipment is sturdy. "It's just like playground equipment," he said.

But Gary McMinn worried that the metal equipment might take a beating. The blue paint on the two rails is already tarnished in spots from skateboards.

Gary McMinn said concrete ramps would be better. The ramps also need to be larger, he said.

"I honestly think they need to get more professional stuff," he said. Still, he acknowledged it's a start in a city that has never had a skateboard park.

Josh Dannenmueller, 23, of Cape Girardeau couldn't resist making a few jumps on his skateboard Wednesday afternoon before rushing to his class at Southeast Missouri State University.

"It's not a whole lot," he said of the park. But he said it does offer skateboarders a place to call their own.

Dannenmueller describes himself as president of the Skate Park Association, a loose-knit group of about 40 area skateboarders. The group had urged the city to build a skate park.

The city has posted a sign on the fence that recommends all users wear helmets and other protective gear.

Dannenmueller ignored the sign. "I've been skating since I was 15," he said, adding that the first thing a skateboarder learns is how to fall.

Louie Norden, 24, of Cape Girardeau is a member of the association. Norden said he's been skateboarding for five years.

"This is something we needed," he said. In the past, skateboarders have been ticketed by police for trespassing when they've ventured onto private parking lots to skate, he said.

The city sign states that users of the skate park who are 12 or younger must be accompanied by an adult.

But Muser said the city has no plans for enforcing that restriction, although he thinks it makes sense for children to have parental supervision.

Muser said some of the warnings and restrictions are listed on the sign to meet liability insurance requirements.

The city sign proclaims that the unlit park is open from dawn to dusk. Muser said the city won't lock it up at night, but expects skateboarders won't be hanging out there after dark.

The city, however, may put up a security light on a nearby utility pole. But such a light won't be designed to illuminate the ramps, Muser said.

Mark Kasten, past president of the Evening Optimists, said his group would consider looking at financing lighting at the skate park if it's warranted.

But even without lights, Kasten figures the skate park will get plenty of use.

"The kids are so excited about it," he said.


335-6611, extension 123

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