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Attendance up at Monett's skate park

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

(Photo)
Ridng up and turning at the top of the quarter pipe at the Monett Skate Park, 14-year-old Grant Oganesyan showed one of the fun maneuvers that keeps him coming back daily to the North Park facility. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Monett's skate park at North Park is undergoing another upgrade.

Attendance on a good day at the park has been running around three dozen youth. The park is getting used, and out of that use comes maintenance challenges.

The latest push for improvements is coming from Kevin Eaton, who enjoyed using the park as a young person and worked with Jim Morris on previous improvements.

According to Eaton, many of the improvements Morris made were done with wood. As with any outdoor facility exposed to weather, wood products have a limited life span. Many of the park's original features installed by the city have held up well over time, only needing to have bolts tightened and replaced. The wood features need attention, and Eaton has been working with park officials to make improvements.

"I know our sport has always had a bad image," Eaton said. "What I am trying to do for the community is keep a place where the kids can enjoy their sport just like the kids that play baseball and tennis and so on."

Eaton has been working on covering rough edges, putting safety cages under ramps and making sure ramps are bolted down. He said three ramps are in danger of caving in and need to be reinforced or replaced before he can install cages. There are maintenance issues with some of the safety rails as well.

Park crews have appreciated seeing public interest shown in the skate park, Eaton said. They have told him about their problems trying to mow during previous maintenance efforts when materials have been left in the grass for extended periods.

A lack of parental supervision at the park continues to be a concern. Trash left by users has worried Eaton about inappropriate behavior. On the other hand, Eaton said, "Since I have been out there fixing up the park, there has been about 20 to 40 kids there on the warm days. The kids are very excited to get this project going."

Eaton said the city has made overtures to machine shops and small industries in town who may be able to help with materials or assistance. A list of supplies and materials to make improvements was approved by Park Superintendent Russ Balmas. Eaton expected to sit down with North Park foreman Larry Howard in the coming week about making needed improvements over a two or three week period.

Balmas has been pleased working with Eaton. He said Eaton has provided detailed updates on skate park plans, has the expertise to make improvements and has completed the work he started.

The donation of wood two-by-fours and two-by-sixes of any length, half-inch or three-quarter-inch plywood, four-by-four posts and sheets of ramp armor for the tops of the ramps, costing around $150 a sheet, would all help the effort, Eaton said. Monett's park could use benches for youth to sit away from the ramps, out of the arena of action, he added. Presently the young people stand around by the riding area.

Having drawn on paper what the park could look like, Eaton plans to meet with EFCO Corporation engineer Walter Branch for assistance in transferring the ideas into a rendering through computer-aided drafting. With a better realized vision of what the park could be, Eaton feels skate park promoters will have a better chance with fundraising efforts to pay for improvements.

"The kids and I are going to try and have a barbecue jam some time in May or June," Eaton said. "We are going to invite the public and big businesses out to watch our local riders as they show them what tricks they can do and how much local talent we have.

"We will talk about what success we have had out there and what the donations will be used for. We would like to hold a competition to raise money for the following year to either add ramps or use the money to keep up the park," Eaton said. He admitted he was new to fundraising and could use some help.

While Monett's skate park is small, Eaton sees potential here that does not exist in the larger supervised parks in Springfield and Joplin.

"Those parks are more politics-ran than rider-ran," Eaton said. "If a biker is the only one on a bicycle there, the skaters hate you, to the point where it gets ridiculous to go to either one. With our park, and in Aurora, you can do both.

"I know I am just one person, but it always starts with one person who can convince another and so on," added Eaton.



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