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Revamped Coeur d'Alene skatepark highlights collaboration and community 

click to enlarge Nathan "Ope" Baker and Jason "Jay" Olsen; Jay carving the bowl. - HECTOR AIZON PHOTOS
  • Hector Aizon photos
  • Nathan "Ope" Baker and Jason "Jay" Olsen; Jay carving the bowl.

The sign on the construction fence promises "Good Times Coming Soon" and sure, if your idea of a good time involves a little face-to-face with the asphalt on occasion, you're in the right place. Yet for many involved in Coeur d'Alene's newly revamped skatepark and BMX freestyle spot, it's way more than a place to gather, grind some rails and have a few laughs.

When it opens Oct. 6, the wedge-shaped span of concrete along Northwest Boulevard and Garden Avenue will fill a widening niche; more than 11 million people skateboard worldwide. And call it a global seal of approval: skateboarding makes its debut at the 2020 summer Olympics.

The park, which spans 17,000 square feet, also represents an innovative and evolving collaboration between the city and a loose coalition of local skateboarders, including the North Idaho Skate Park Association (NISPA, formerly CdaSk8Park), which was heavily involved in planning the new park. It's a significant upgrade from the prior park, actually a mashup of ramps and other features cobbled together since 1995 and replaced or added to in dribs and drabs, including by the city.

In 2017, as the Four Corners area was developed — across from Memorial Park, it includes Memorial Field, the carousel, pickleball courts, a playground and pavilion — the skatepark was demolished with plans for a from-scratch facility.

"When we first started our group — me and Ope [Nathan Baker] and some other guys — we were the go-to," says NISPA member Jason "Jay" Olsen, who was stoked to work with the city's Parks and Rec Department. After gathering input from skaters, NISPA created a short list of contractors, including Grindline, whose legacy includes Spokane's first skatepark in 1997 (later dubbed "Under the Freeway" and torn down in 2015).

The city went with Evergreen which, like Grindline, comprises people who skate first, pour concrete later. "They offered more for the same price and unique features that fit the budget," says Olsen.

The "flow bowl," for example, is like an underground pool with a topside ledge and interior moguls or "pump bumps" embedded in the bowl. The plaza-like design allows multiple traffic patterns simultaneously, combining concrete ramps, rails, etc., of varying degrees of difficulty, with green space and other areas for people to watch.

"We give [skaters] what they're attracted to naturally," says Baker, a local business owner and father of two who, like many in NISPA, has raised a generation of skaters. "I'm working on my granddaughter," he says, smiling.

Olsen, who figures he's been boarding since he was 10 — he's now 45 and a father of four — also sees opportunities in the new skatepark. The "skatepark effect," he says, is a lesson in community, where like-minded people can gather, share information, learn about the sport and each other. NISPA will continue advocating for the sport through workshops and events, including the park's opening, which features gear giveaways, live music, local and regional boarders and a special appearance by Mike "Mike V" Vallely, a multifaceted pro skateboarder, wrestler, stuntman, actor and the latest lead singer of punk band Black Flag.

There's another benefit to skateboarding, says Olsen. "It creates a huge amount of resilience," he says, describing the patience, tenacity and endurance it takes to defy gravity on a flexing surface 7-10 inches wide and less than a half-inch thick. You learn from failure, says Olsen, who says he applied those lessons to his own career as a designer.

For Parks and Rec's trails coordinator Monte McCully, the park is one more way to enjoy Coeur d'Alene. "The whole thing — not just the skatepark, but the whole park — is meant to be beautiful." ♦

Coeur d'Alene Skatepark Opening • Sat, Oct. 6, 10 am-dusk • Free • 480 W. Garden Ave., Coeur d'Alene

click to enlarge ryan-allen_pyro-13.jpg

COEUR D'ALENE ARTIST & SKATEBOARDER COMBINES PASSIONS

Ryan Allen remembers asking his father for a longboard and what he got was a lesson in building one. The task suited young Allen, who uses the boards — mostly birch — as a canvas for his pyrographic illustrations. Burned into the surface of the deck with a tool similar to a soldering iron, Allen then tints the image with oil or acrylic paint. Although he does custom orders, his favorite themes are inspired by the outdoors and animals — an owl taking a fish, a Tolkienesque tree, a rising trout.

"I think most of it is a reflection of what I see in nature," says Allen, an avid fisherman who keeps two fly rods and waders in his rig at all times.

Allen built and embellished boards through college, launching NoHo Board Company upon returning home to Coeur d'Alene, featuring his custom boards ($200-600), as well as original artwork and brand swag. When he's not skating or fishing, he's working on his next art piece like the new work showing at Whistle Punk Brewing in Spokane Oct. 12-26. Visit nohoboardco.com to see his work.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Concrete Evidence"

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