A new skate park could be built in Columbus by next summer as the city plans a complete overhaul of its current facility, which has been showing signs of deterioration for years.

The Jolie Crider Memorial Skate Park, which was constructed in 1999 at Indiana Avenue and Marr Road, has exceeded its life expectancy, said Stacy Findley, project and resource development director for the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department.

The city is planning to replace the existing 15,000-square-foot facility at Clifty Park, primarily made of wood, with a 12,000-square-foot concrete skate park that is expected to open by June.

Findley said the intent is to make the new skate park available to all individuals regardless of their skill level, including skateboarders, BMX riders, in-line skaters and roller derby members.

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The city already has secured $170,000 toward the $385,000 project through a combination of private donations, parks and recreation capital fund monies and two grants through the Custer and Nugent foundations. However, additional funds are being sought in order to make the project a reality, Findley said.

Founder’s insight

“It certainly needs to be overhauled,” said Joe Nierman, a former Columbus man who was instrumental in founding of the skate park, citing safety reasons.

Nierman, a financial planner with WestPoint Financial Group in Indianapolis, said the skate park was his Columbus East High School senior project from 18 years ago. He helped raise $100,000 for the original park.

Columbus didn’t have a skate park, and creating one was something local teens wanted to do, he said.

“I started when I was 15 and it took several years,” he said. “We didn’t know what we were getting into at the time.”

He and a group of about 20 East and North students used $100,000 in donations, including money and materials from businesses and individuals, to build the facility.

It was named in memory of Columbus North sophomore Jolie Crider, who died from bacterial meningitis May 7, 1998. The Crider family donated $25,000 through the Jolie Crider Reach Out Fund, set up by her parents, to support the skate park project.

Once the skate park opened Aug. 13, 1999, it became a big part of local teens’ lives, he said.

Nierman is part of the effort again as one of seven committee members who have been meeting since May to discuss plans for a new park.

The facility’s current condition includes visible signs of wear such as broken wooden structures and visible holes, said Mark Jones, the city’s parks and recreation director.

“A lot of maintenance is going into it and we’re at the point where we have to do something major with it,” Jones said. “It needs a major, major overhaul. I think it’s very well used and I think it can be a bigger draw if we modernize it.”

The revamped facility will be designed by Janne Saario, an architect based in Helsinki, Finland, who has created skate parks in cities across the world.

Nierman, who said he still is a skating enthusiast, said he is excited about the new facility.

“I would absolutely use it,” he said.

The city held a meeting Dec. 13 at the Donner Center to solicit public feedback on the project, with more meetings planned in early 2018, Findley said.

“We want to make sure there’s something for the beginners and the expert riders,” she said. “We want to give people a safe place.”

What youth think

The skate park has continued to be a popular gathering spot for young people to hang out, said Eli Waltz, who was riding his scooter with a group of friends on the first day of winter break.

The 11-year-old agreed that the park is in need of major improvements, and offered some ideas that could make it better.

For one, Waltz said he would like to see lighting added so the public can enjoy the skate park during the evening hours.

“The ramps, I think, should be rebuilt because there are little indents that people could easily fall on,” said Waltz, expressing excitement about the prospect of a new skate park.

That sentiment was shared by Johnavon Mullins, who said he visits the skate park often.

Mullins said he hopes to see more rails and boxes developed in the new skate park, describing the facility’s current condition as being in bad shape.

Raven Wilson, 13, also is a frequent visitor to the skate park and pointed to its overall condition.

Wilson said he worries about his safety when using it.

He has lost several teeth from falls while using the half-pipe, while nails are coming out in some areas, he said.

The skate park’s current design has too much open space, Wilson said.

“It’d be nice if they put more ramps in,” Wilson said. “So many people don’t bring their kids here because of how bad the ramps are.”

An upgraded skate park, made more visually appealing with brighter colors, would ultimately draw more people to the area, he said.

Waltz’ father, James Waltz, said he was pleased to learn the skate park is scheduled to get a major renovation as he watched his son play with his group of friends.

“It needs to be done,” he said. “It’s looking kind of rough.”

How to donate

To donate funds toward a new skate park in Columbus, checks can be made out to the Columbus Park Foundation with “skate park” in the memo line and can be dropped off at the city’s Parks and Recreation department, Donner Center, 739 22nd St.

Donations can also be made online on the Columbus Park Foundation’s website. Visit columbusparkfoundation.org.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com