The fence around the Jaycees Skate Park in south Brainerd is chained up signifying its indefinite closure, but that doesn’t mean the park isn’t buzzing with skaters — skaters armed with paint brushes.
After the Brainerd Parks and Recreation Board decided to close the park Monday following a battle with constant vandalism, the Brainerd skateboarding community decided its best option was to fight back the right way.
Kindboard Skateshop of Brainerd co-owners Adam Olander and Greg Eberly organized a community effort to clean up the skatepark in hopes of showing their longterm commitment to providing a safe and positive place for skateboarders to skate in the Brainerd area.
“We’re doing it for a couple of reasons — the main reason is to show the community that there is a group of skaters who care,” said Olander. “We’re here to show that we are good kids.”
Despite the dreary weather Friday afternoon, the cleanup day attracted about 35 area skateboarders and enthusiasts who volunteered to clean up trash and paint over vandalized ramps in the south Brainerd park.
Within a few hours the volunteer crew had the park cleaned up and looking new.
Brainerd Parks and Recreation Director Tony Sailer said he was surprised at the number of kids that showed up to help. “I give Greg and Adam a lot of credit,” Sailer said. “I think it’s a fantastic first step.
“It always amazes me, when push comes to shove who steps up to the plate.”
Olander, 24, and Eberly, 29, both natives of the Brainerd area and longtime skaters, began a dialogue with Sailer after a story about the graffiti and vandalism issue was published in the Dispatch last week.
“We wanted to take control of the situation and make it something positive,” Eberly said. “There’s a lot of passion behind it.”
The first story published in the Dispatch attracted attention beyond the Brainerd lakes area, drawing feedback from two national skateboarding foundations; The Tony Hawk Foundation in Vista, Calif. and California Skateparks in Upland, Calif. Olander said representatives from both organizations have offered support and potential solutions to preserve the skateboarding community in Brainerd.
Both organizations work to help promote and finance quality skateparks in communities across the country.
Rachelle Lively Duncan of California Skateparks said in a phone interview she feels Brainerd skateboarders are doing exactly what they need to be doing. Duncan’s job is to reach out to communities struggling to find a fit for a skate park by developing solutions and providing operational support. “I have built a skate park from the ground up — I know what it takes,” Duncan said. “We don’t want to just go in and place a park, we want to build something sustainable.”
Duncan said she happened across the Dispatch story about the Brainerd Jaycees skate park when someone left it on her desk early last week. After reading online, Duncan offered her support to help the Brainerd parks department and area skaters come up with a plan. “It will take the community pulling together to make it happen,” she said.
Olander and Eberly have established a committee of skateboarders to work with the park district and additional resources from outside organizations to help come up with a long-term solution to the graffiti and location issue associated with the park’s current site. “We identified the problem, now we’re working on a solution,” Sailer said. “There are a lot of steps ahead.”
Olander and Eberly said they realize painting the park doesn’t necessarily mean it will open again anytime soon, but they want the community to know they are committed to making skateboarding a positive part of community life in Brainerd. “We realize we have to give a lot of respect before we get any back,” Olander said.
“We’re getting a lot of support from the community,” Eberly added. “Obviously the kids are willing to come out and help.”
With the support they’ve received, Olander and Eberly also acknowledged the amount of negative feedback they’ve heard about the graffiti and the effort to clean it up. Eberly said many don’t understand the point of cleaning up a park that has already been closed. “People need to realize it’s not the skateboarders who did this,” he said. “We want to take care of what we’ve been given.”
The pair said the ultimate goal in the cleanup process is to gain support for the idea of relocating the skate park to an area more centrally located — something Sailer said is being seriously considered. “We’re thinking out loud of this point,” said Sailer, adding that the park board is open to any location ideas from the community.
As for the potential for more vandalism, Olander and Eberly said they realize there is a good chance the park may be damaged again, but their goal is to simply make things better. “We’re trying to do something good,” Olander said. “What’s wrong so wrong about doing something?”
SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at sarah.nelsonkatzenberger @brainerddispatch.com or 855-5879.