CROSBY -- Tom Burgwald began visiting inmates at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud last year with Residents Encounter Christ, a Christian counseling group.
But something about these visits bothered the retired Crosby phone company employee. While he felt working with the inmates was a rewarding experience, he believed there must be something he could do in his own community to help teens before they ended up behind bars like the men he counseled.
Burgwald started talking with Crosby Police Chief John Drennan and Crosby police officer Dean Savor about what could be done in the community to help kids. They suggested that he talk to teens, ask them what they would like in their community.
Burgwald approached three teens -- Ryan Alfaro, Tyson Schmidt Huber and Allen Toninen -- who were skateboarding in a Crosby bank parking lot. It was a parking lot they'd been kicked out of many times, so the teens figured they were once again in trouble for skateboarding. Instead, Burgwald asked them whether they'd be interested in helping to build a city skate park. They all thought it was a great idea.
Tyson Schmidt Huber, 14, Crosby, rode his skateboard on the crumbling cement at the former tennis courts near Crosby City Hall. The former tennis courts is the site where the proposed $85,000 skate park will be built once the skate park committee can raise the funds.
"We've always wanted a skate park here, but no adults have ever helped us," said Schmidt Huber, who is 14.
There isn't a whole lot for teens to do in Crosby, said McLean Severson, 14.
"It is the antique capital of Minnesota," Severson said of his hometown.
Skateboarding is one of the fastest growing sports in the country, and teens in Crosby, like those in many other communities without skate parks, have to practice their skills in parking lots and on sidewalks, often getting yelled at and forced to find somewhere else to skate.
The teens, including Burgwald, asked the Crosby City Council last spring to donate a piece of property for a skate park. The council agreed to donate the former tennis courts behind city hall. The surface of the courts is cracked and in need of repair or else the courts need to be demolished. The city also agreed to pay for the insurance for the skate park and will pay to have the blacktop on the courts removed.
"I didn't think they'd let us use it because a lot of people don't like this sort of thing," said Schmidt Huber. "But they let us use the land."
Seventeen teen-age boys, ages 10-18, went on a day trip with Burgwald to test skate parks in Grand Rapids, Hermantown and Superior, Wis. Superior's skate park was by far the best, the boys said. They hired a firm, TrueRide Inc., to draw up plans for the 110-foot by 125-foot Crosby skate park, which will be used by skateboarders, in-line skaters and BMX riders.
The 27 teen-agers on the skate park committee ultimately designed the skate park, and expect many skateboarders from the Brainerd lakes area will come into their community to use the new park.
The skate park will cost $85,000. About $56,965 will be used to buy the equipment, while the rest will be used to pay for the concrete. The teens, along with help from Crosby area adults, have raised $4,755 so far, which includes a $2,000 grant from Brainerd Youth As Resources and another $2,000 grant from Crow Wing Power. The skate park committee hosted a teen dance recently at Hallett Community Center, where it raised $700.
Burgwald said they also have been told by another area organization that they may receive a $40,000 grant in the near future.
The skate park will hopefully be open next summer, if the group raises enough funds, said Burgwald.
If you or your organization would like to donate money to help make the Crosby skate park a reality, contact Tom Burgwald at 546-5678.
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