|photo courtesy of Shay Canning|
In the right sidebar of this blog, you’ll see a GiveMN.org widget that allows you to make a secure online donation to the Northfield Skateboard Coalition through its fiscal agent, the Northfield Healthy Community Initiative. All donations will go toward designing and building a permanent skateboard park in Old Memorial Park in Northfield.
In 1986, Northfield passed an ordinance that prohibited skateboarding within “the central business district.” Three years later, the late Bev Finholt, then a member of the Northfield City Council, questioned the skateboard prohibition, and the mayor, Jerry Anderson, brought up the possibility of building a city skateboard park.
That was in 1989.
Fast forward to 2006. A group of young skateboarders, mostly sixteen- and seventeen-year olds, formed the Northfield Skateboard Coalition. Their mission was to raise money to build a permanent skateboard park in Northfield. Within a year, the Skateboard Coalition had secured and matched a $10,000 grant from the Northfield Healthy Community Initiative, and hoped to move forward with construction of a skateboard park in Old Memorial Park near the municipal outdoor swimming pool.
Fast forward again to 2014. Fast forward, but keep in mind that for the youth involved, the process over the past eight years has moved in agonizing slow motion. The youth who founded the Skateboard Coalition in 2006 have all grown up—with college degrees, and jobs, and some with children of their own—and another generation of skateboarders has inherited their effort to create a skateboard park. After several years of inaction, the Northfield City Council in December 2012 approved Old Memorial Park as the site of the skateboard park, and allocated $60,000 toward the design and construction of the park. Now there's another $50,000 to be raised.
Though I've never skateboarded, I became involved with the Skateboard Coalition in early 2012. Amy Merritt, then the executive director of The Key (Northfield’s youth center), knew she would soon be moving on to other opportunities, and wanted to make sure there was another adult working with the Coalition. At the time, the Coalition was under the capable and dynamic leadership of Frank Meyer, a high school senior and non-skateboarder who was instrumental in securing a site for the skateboard park. In April 2013, Frank and the other youth members of the Skateboard Coalition were awarded the Making a Difference Award from the Northfield Healthy Community Initiative for their efforts on behalf of youth in the Northfield community. Throughout the years, the skateboarders have been models of civility and public engagement, attending numerous city meetings, respectfully advocating for their cause, and earning the respect of City officials and staff, neighbors, and members of the community at large.
|Members of the Skateboard Coalition receiving the Northfield HCI Making a Difference Award in 2013|
Skateboarding provides young people with opportunities to participate in a demanding and rewarding physical activity, encourages healthy behaviors, and provides a sense of place and of belonging to a community. A skateboard park will provide a public place for skateboarders to practice their skills that is safer and less disruptive than streets and sidewalks. A skateboard park will serve the recreational needs of a population of youth not currently served by the City’s recreational facilities. Finally, a skateboard park will be a valuable investment in Northfield’s youth, and a recognition of the involvement of youth in the process of building and strengthening our community.
It’s been twenty-five years since the possibility of creating a skateboard park in Northfield was first raised. Temporary skateboard parks have come and gone, but the city is still without a permanent park, despite years of hard work on the part of local skateboarders and their supporters. We’re closer than we’ve ever come to getting a skateboard park. You can help finally make that dream a reality. I hope you’ll join me in supporting the Northfield Skateboard Coalition.
by Rob Hardy