Supporters are rolling up their sleeves to raise $150,000 in the next three months so local skateboarders can let down their hair at a safe, fun outdoor activity.

Fundraising for a new $385,000 concrete skate park in Columbus has passed the halfway mark, but it will take a push to have the skate park ready to open by the end of June, as planners have envisioned.

The need is obvious to Joe Nierman, who pitched the idea of a wooden skate park and helped raise $100,000 to build one in Columbus nearly 20 years ago.

But time and the elements have taken a toll on the original Jolie Crider Memorial Skate Park.

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“It’s not safe and it’s not going to last another summer,” said Nierman, the Columbus East student who proposed the skate park as his senior project.

Nierman, who is now a financial planner with WestPoint Financial Group in Indianapolis, suggested the original skate park to the city parks and recreation department during a high school work-shadow day.

“There wasn’t any place we could skate for free,” Nierman said. “Really, Columbus needed a skate park.”

Nierman and a group of about 20 East and North students collected money and materials from businesses and individuals to help construct the facility in 1999. But rotting wood at the skate park has made it unsafe.

“We’ve certainly got our use out of it,” Nierman said.

What’s next

The city is planning to replace the 15,000-square-foot, mostly wooden skate park at Indiana Avenue and Marr Road in Clifty Park with a 12,000-square-foot concrete facility that will be more durable, easier to maintain and have a more welcoming design, according to the Columbus Park Foundation.

The wooden skate park is named in memory of Columbus North High School freshman Jolie Crider, who died from bacterial meningitis on May 7, 1998, at age 14. The Crider family donated $25,000 through the Jolie Crider Reach Out Fund, set up by her parents, to support the original project.

Its name will be kept when the new facility is built, said Mark Jones, city parks and recreation director.

The June target date coincides with what would have been Jolie Crider’s 35th birthday.

“We need to modernize that facility,” Jones said.

Crider’s father, Bob Crider, managing director at Reams Asset Management in Columbus, said he supports the idea of building a new skate park.

“That will result in greater usage and make the facility a greater highlight,” Crider said.

The new skate park will be open to individuals of all skill levels, including in-line skaters, BMX bike riders and skateboarders — all of which use the existing park, Jones said.

It will be designed by Janne Saario, an architect based in Helsinki, Finland, who has created skate parks in cities around the world. The Columbus skate park will be his first in the United States, however.

Interest building

Plans for a revamped skate park in Columbus have been generating interest.

“Word’s getting out that we’re looking to do something new,” Jones said. “It’s another population we want to make sure we’re accommodating.”

In addition to local skaters, Nierman believes it will draw from beyond Columbus.

“Kids want to skate,” Nierman said.

“It should really gain momentum in the skate park community. We’re hoping it will add architectural elements to Columbus as well as a mode for skate ridership,” said Stacy Findley, project and resource development director for the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department.

A construction timetable has not yet been set, Jones said.

The city hopes to secure all of the funding it needs before work begins on the project, he said.

About $184,000 toward the $385,000 project has been raised through a combination of private donations, parks and recreation capital fund monies and several grants, Findley said.

Donations include:

  • $25,000 in two grants from the Custer and Nugent foundations
  • $10,000 grant from the Columbus Area Visitors Center
  • $4,000 from a Feb. 27 fundraiser at YES Cinema
  • $50,000 matching grant from the Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County

The city needs an additional $151,000 to reach its goal, which would bring the total to $335,000. That amount doesn’t include the $50,000 matching grant from the Heritage Fund.

To help raise additional funds, the parks and recreation department is selling T-shirts that say “Jolie Crider Memorial Skatepark 2.0” on the front. The shirts, which include a silhouette of a skateboarder, sell for $10 each.

Details about additional public fundraisers are still being determined by the city’s skate park committee, Findley said.

However, she said the best way for the public to help is to donate money on the Columbus Park Foundation’s website, which will go toward the $50,000 matching grant.

How to help

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. They can be be dropped off at the city’s Parks and Recreation Department at Donner Center, 739 22nd St.

Checks can be mailed to the Columbus Park Foundation, P.O. Box 858, Columbus, IN 47202. Online donations can be made on the foundation’s website by visiting columbusparkfoundation.org.

To order special design T-shirts for $10 each, stop in at the parks department or call 812-376-2680. The shirts say “Jolie Crider Memorial Skatepark 2.0.”

For more information, contact Stacy Findley, project and resource development director for the city’s parks and recreations department, at 812-375-2759 or e-mail sfindley@columbus.in.gov.

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