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15 years later, skate park builders hope to renovate aging Clifty Park facility

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Several Columbus East and North graduates who helped build a city skate park 15 years ago are working on a plan to renovate the facility.

They are part of a Columbus Parks and Recreation Department committee being formed to develop renovation plans for the Jolie Crider Skate Park in Clifty Park, at Indiana Avenue and Marr Road.

The 15,000-square-foot park was designed and built for about $100,000 in 1999, organized by a steering committee of 20 teen skateboarders led by then-Columbus East High School senior Joe Nierman.


Nierman, now an Indianapolis attorney, said the skate park was his senior project.

Skateboarding was a big part of the teens’ lives then, he said. Columbus didn’t have a skate park, and creating one was something the students wanted to do, he said.

“I started when I was 15 and it took several years,” he said. “I think we just didn’t know any better. 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.

The skate park opened on Aug. 13, 1999.

Loran Bohall, who was then a high school student and worked on the original committee in 1999, said he’s excited to be a part of a project that played an important role in his young adult life.

Bohall helped found the Columbus Bicycle Co-op about seven years ago.

“It really was a huge thing for us growing up. It was a fantastic outlet,” he said of the school project. “We were so excited about it and pretty young at the time. This time around, with more than a decade of experience in that kind of field, it’s really exciting to have more of a hand in the actual skate park.”

Bohall said most of the committee members in 1999 were fellow high school students who were excited about bringing a skate park to Columbus but didn’t have experience or knowledge about how to build a facility.

Volunteers and workers labored for weeks to build the park, putting in between 700 and 800 hours in construction time. The park includes ramps, half pipes and guardrails.

In 1999, the skate park project was supervised by Mark Podgurski, a Pennsylvania native who constructs skate ramps for ESPN’s X Games.

The park was named in memory of Columbus North sophomore Jolie Crider, who died from bacterial meningitis on 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.

Skate park deterioration

The skate park, constructed primarily of wood, has been showing its age. Skateboarders who use the park say the facility has been in disrepair for some time.

“The ramps are coming apart really bad and the screws are coming out,” Columbus East freshman Corey Burk said while using a scooter at the facility Wednesday. “It could be bigger and have lights so people can ride at night.”

Bohall said the current condition of the 15-year-old skate park isn’t surprising.

Wood was chosen as the construction material for a reason back then, he said.

“At the time, it was all fairly really new, especially to the Midwest, to be doing big parks like that. A lot of more moderate-climate areas, like California, would have all-wood skate parks,” he said. “It was kind of the standard. It was a little bit more forgiving when you fall on it and it’s a little smoother.”

Zayrin Youngblood, who recently moved to Columbus from Madison and is a freshman at Ivy Tech Community College — Columbus, said it is nice that the city has a skate park to begin with but thinks it should be reconstructed using concrete instead of wood.

“Using a lot of this wood, it will deteriorate a lot quicker and cost the city a lot of money,” he said. “If they do get concrete stuff in, they’ll never have to worry about the upkeep on it.”

Other skateboarders pointed out the park doesn’t have any seating except on some of the ramps, which is dangerous.

Jacob Lienhoop, a student at St. Peter’s Lutheran School who skateboards at the park, said that restrooms aren’t conveniently located and there are no vending machines for drinks and snacks.

The park was painted in 2012 with murals sponsored by the Columbus Area Arts Council and parks department and painted by members of the Bartholomew County Youth Services Center.

Since 2008, about $31,000 has been spent on maintenance from a fund at the Columbus Park Foundation and city funding, said Mark Jones, Columbus Parks and Recreation director.

In the past few weeks, the parks department spent $10,000 in repairs, replacing wooden structures, resurfacing the wood and making the ramp frames stable.

The skate park will be closed Saturday for painting. As part of an Eagle Scout project, Billy Nelson asked to do the painting, Jones said.

More extensive renovations to the facility could happen over the next three years, Jones said.

In July, the skate park’s condition was mentioned as a possible reason some skateboard enthusiasts turned to public parking lots and sidewalks to pursue their hobby rather than using the skate park.

That month, Cleo Rogers Memorial Library officials notified Columbus police that video surveillance showed unidentified skateboarders grinding along concrete benches in the new library plaza.

The benches, made of a special type of Spanish concrete, are valued at $5,000. The manufacturer, Landscape Forms, repaired the damaged benches at no cost to the library and installed clips to keep skateboarders off the bench edges.

Another chance

Nierman said he is looking forward to being as involved in the new project as he was on the first one.

“Skating has been, and continues to be, a big part of our lives,” he said. “We still go skate. Even after all of these years, the discipline and the fun that skating brings is still a big part of our lives.”

Now that Bohall is getting another shot at working on the skate park, he hopes to make a few upgrades.

“One of the things that the park has always kind of missed would be kind of a jump box or a fly box. It’s kind of like a launch box,” he said. “It would be mainly just to get practice with launching and getting air.”

In addition to Nierman and Bohall, committee members working on the renovation are Tanner Tyree, Brad Stroia, Hannah Frey and Chuck Wilt.

April Williams, parks department project resource development director, said more members are needed for the committee.

“We are looking at what other parks and recreation departments are doing. What are lessons learned in materials used?” Williams said.

Williams said she hopes the committee visits other skate parks and talks with leaders of those facilities to understand what skaters are looking for and who is using them.

She hopes that a new Columbus skate park would draw new users locally and nationally.

A fundraising campaign

A skate park fundraising campaign would be necessary to raise money to renovate the park, Williams said.

Parks officials don’t have a specific fund goal amount as the committee needs to come up with plans first, Williams said, but the campaign could begin next year.

The fundraising goal would have to be much higher than $100,000, however, Williams said.

Matt Fluegge, chief operations officer of Seattle-based skate park design and construction company Grindline Skateparks, said replacing the current facility with a similar-sized concrete version would cost $500,000 to $600,000.

He added that most city skate parks are 8,000 to 10,000 square feet, smaller than the Columbus one, which also affects the price.

“We don’t know the size right now,” Williams said. “It could be a possibility that it could be a larger skate park and it could be in a completely different location.”

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