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Updating a skaters paradise: City hosts forum on park upgrades

Travis Pollreisz, left, discusses potential skate park improvements with Nathan Bemo, right, during a public input session held Tuesday at the Mitchell Recreation Center. The event allowed local skaters and community members to suggest other improvements to the Dry Run Creek Skate Park. (Sam Fosness / Republic)1 / 3
A public forum was held on Tuesday at the Rec Center about potential improvements and additions to the local skate park. (Republic illustration)2 / 3
Travis Pollreisz, left, discusses potential skate park improvements with Nathan Bemo, right, during a public forum held Tuesday at the Mitchell Recreation Center. The public forum allowed local skaters and community members to suggest improvements to the Dry Run Creek skate park. (Sam Fosness / Republic)3 / 3

Local skateboarders were given the chance to dream big about the future of Mitchell's skate park on Tuesday night.

City leaders and skateboarding aficionados gathered at the Mitchell Recreation Center and discussed adding a brand new concrete pool and new handrails to the existing and aging skate park located near Dry Run Creek. The skate pool would be Mitchell's first, and Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell had a public input session Tuesday to unveil the park improvement designs.

"By adding these improvements, I hope to see more community support for a great activity that kids of all backgrounds have access to," Powell said. "These designs are exciting, and we hope to promote a healthy activity like skateboarding."

Nathan Bemo, owner of American Ramp Company, assisted Powell in designing the proposed new improvements to the existing skate park, which is located along Burr Street and across the street from the Iverson Chrysler Center car dealership.

Bemo presented two major improvement options during the event, which he explained through visual representations that he hung up in the conference room at the Rec Center.

"The first phase is to develop a concrete bowl off to the west side of the existing park," Bemo said. "And I'm trying to get a consensus today from local skaters on what type of bowl and design they like best."

The design Powell and Bemo suggest would add a 1,800-square foot concrete pool on the west side of the existing skate park with a depth of 5 to 6 feet that transitions into a shallower side of 4 feet. As an avid skater himself, Bemo has expertise in constructing skate parks, which his company has been doing across the world since 1998 when his company was founded out of Joplin, Missouri.

Powell noted the importance of adding a few transitions that are less steep to accomodate for beginner level skaters.

"We want to make this skate park as family friendly as possible, and we're trying to promote kids of all ages to feel welcomed to skateboard or rollerblade," Powell said.

The addition of the concrete pool is estimated to cost $100,000, which would also include a few updates to the current ramps and rails at Dry Run Creek Skate Park.

Bemo said the addition of the concrete pool would take roughly 70 to 90 days to build, and noted the hill dipping down toward Dry Run Creek as an advantage in drainage for the pool during rainfall.

While Powell has been coordinating ways to fund the skatepark improvements, he's calling upon local skaters to unite in fundraising efforts.

"I plan on talking to local businesses to see if they would like to get involved, and give opportunities for naming rights," Powell said. "A skate park is a place where everyone is welcome, and by improving the current park, I hope it can unite more kids in staying active, rather than just playing video games."

Once the new design is finalized in March, Powell has set a timeline of a year and a half to see where fundraising is at, which will play a major role in deciding the fate of the skate park's improvement plan.

As a local skater born and raised in Mitchell, Travis Pollreisz said he was proud to see his community show support for skateboarding culture.

Pollreisz has felt the impact of how important a local skate park can be to a community, as he credits the hobby for keeping him focused in school and work.

"It's great that someone in the city is actually paying attention to skateboarding, because not every kid in Mitchell grows up wanting to play basketball, football or wrestling," Pollreisz said. "It's important to understand that this is a great way for kids to get healthy exercise and get passionate about something."

Pollreisz applauded Powell for acknowledging the skateboarding community in Mitchell. The city's first skate park was a half-mile west along Dry Run Creek from the current location. But after vandals covered the ramps in graffiti and burnt the half-pipe to the ground, the city rebuilt the existing skate park in 2012 to a more visible location, in hopes to eliminate a similar problem.

"I've never really had the opportunity to skate a concrete pool, so that will be fun learning the ins and outs of pool skating," he said. "This park has been in need of an update for quite some time, and it's exciting to know it could happen."

While Watertown and Fort Thompson are the only two skate parks with a concrete pool in East River South Dakota, Pollreisz feels it will be a big draw for area skaters.

"The atmosphere at the park is great the way it is, but the park itself is in rough shape, so this is a much-needed plan," Pollreisz said.

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