Since opening in late 2012, the Ojibway Park Skate Plaza in Woodbury has been a hit with skateboarders and inline skaters who enjoy honing and showing off their skills and tricks, along with their friends. The new facility's popularity did not come as a surprise to city officials, since several local skateboarders played a role in the planning process.
Before it was replaced, the old skate plaza in Ojibway Park had seen better days. After more than a decade of use and exposure to harsh Minnesota weather, the plaza’s prefab structures, including a composite ramp surface called Skatelite, “were past their life span,” says city of Woodbury recreation specialist Reed Smidt.
The skate plaza also posed a danger to skaters, says local boarder Dan Rusin, who played a key role in getting a new plaza. “The metal was starting to warp and there were sharp edges; there was rust and screws were falling out,” he says.
Rusin, 21, has been skateboarding for 11 years. He and his friends were drawn to the free-form, unstructured nature of the sport. “There are no rules, no schedules and no coaches,” Rusin says.
The challenge and satisfaction of learning new tricks is also a big part of the sport's appeal. Rusin still remembers the excitement of mastering his first trick, the kickslip, in which the skater slips off the back of the board while making the front end of the board pop up, and a 360-degree flip in which the board rotates. “It seemed like magic when I first saw people do it,” but after hours of practice those tricks became second-nature to Rusin, inspiring him to learn more difficult moves. “I like to think you can do anything on a skateboard if you put your mind to it, and you can skate on almost anything,” he says.
An 11th-grade writing assignment at East Ridge High School—writing a persuasive letter—led to his involvement in helping develop a new, improved Woodbury skate plaza. Rusin’s teacher liked his letter outlining the need for a new skate plaza and suggested he send it to the city. Smidt subsequently invited Rusin and two of his friends to tell city officials what they would like to see in a new plaza.
Rusin and several fellow skateboarders participated in several planning sessions for the new plaza, along with city officials and representatives of the contractor, California-based Action Sport Design (ASD). Construction began in late July 2012 and was completed that October, with a grand opening the following May.
ASD installed a poured, concrete skate plaza that should be much more durable than the original plaza, which only lasted about a decade. The new facility has skill-testing rails, steps and two quarter-pipes for boarding, with a roomier layout than the old plaza, in the same 145-by-80 foot footprint. Smidt says nearby residents have also indicated they like the new skate plaza, which blends into the park layout better, and has a quieter surface.
Typically, 20 to 30 skaters can be found using the plaza on a nice day after school, Smidt says. “It's become one of the more popular skate plazas in the metro area because of the design.”
Brandon Bowes, a 2013 graduate of Park High School in Cottage Grove, has been skateboarding for about a decade and considers the new plaza a major improvement. “Everything is built really well; I love how smooth the surfaces are,” Bowes says. “You can fall and not worry about landing on a screw. There's a lot of area to skate in, and the concrete quarter-pipes are 'mellow.'” He also enjoys skidding down the plaza’s main rail on his board.
Rusin was also pleased with the outcome of the plaza planning process. “The new plaza is way better than I ever anticipated,” he says. “It looked cool on paper, but to see it actually get built was incredible.” His favorite feature is a 45-degree, four- to five-foot high ramp that enables skaters to build speed.
It's possible that Rusin’s skate plaza planning experience could lead to a career. A sophomore geology major at the University of Minnesota, he's considering a career in urban planning. He says, “It's cool to see people using something you helped develop.”
Skate Plaza Hours of Operation
The Ojibway Park Skate Plaza is open from 6 a.m. to sunset. The skate plaza is not supervised. For more information, go to ci.woodbury.mn.
3rd Lair Skateboard Camp
This summer, Ojibway Skate Plaza will host the 3rd Lair skateboard camp, for experts to beginners and everyone in between. Camp will include instruction in balance, pushing, dropping in, skate park safety and etiquette. The camp will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on June 29–July 1 and August 10–12. Fee will be $120 for Woodbury residents and $135 for nonresidents. More information at ci.woodbury.mn.us.