It’s impossible not to overlook the growth and change that’s currently reshaping the Coeur d’Alene area. Large hotels are going up, new housing developments are going in and older buildings downtown are being renovated for new offices, businesses and restaurants. The Four Corners Project reshaped the landscape and feel of downtown and the waterfront as locals and visitors approach from Northwest Boulevard. When the project was approved, many in the community were thrilled. The local skateboarding community, however, went into mourning as plans called for the elimination of the long-standing skate park. Luckily for them, the mourning was short lived. Through the help of a dedicated local organization, local businesses and many on the city council, a brand new skate park is now ready to accept riders of all level.
Jay Olsen is a father, business owner and lifelong skateboarder. As a Coeur d’Alene resident for more than 20 years, he spent many days down at the original park. There he met riders of all ages and backgrounds and became fast friends with another local father and business owner, Ope Baker. While riding and talking, the friends noticed that the younger skaters didn’t’ really have a voice in the community and decided that they could help provide one for them. They originally started a social media following and, in 2013, established The North Idaho Skate Park Association (NISPA).
Early on, NISPA decided to rebrand skateboarding culture in the community. The group put on skate clinics, bike and skate demos at local elementary schools, and participated in community parades, all in an effort to show the positive effects of the sport.
“We started finding like-minded people who saw the impact skateboarding had on their lives,” said Olsen. “It teaches you resilience, toughness and makes you a strong person because it’s hard to do.”
Skateboarding is a draw not just for kids but for teens, 20-somethings and even working professionals and parents like Olsen and Baker. Having talked to many young riders over the years, Olsen found that many come from lower-income households and many are really good kids just looking for a creative outlet outside of more mainstream teenage activities. These young people tend to bond together in what Olsen refers to as “the skate park affect.”
“You kinda become like a family. You keep trying a trick over and over, and when you finally land it, all your skate buddies are so excited for you, it’s awesome,” he said.
Not wanting to lose the area’s only park, the North Idaho Skate Park Association began working with local businesses as well as the city council on a plan for a new park that would have multiple uses. The group’s commitment to civic engagement helped convince city leaders that a skate park is a vital part of the community, and a partnership was established.
“We are so appreciative, and what a pleasant experience to work with the City of Coeur d’Alene,” said Olsen. “They see the vision, understand the importance and see that it will elevate the community.”
While the old park was put together in pieces without a real flow, the new park was designed by a professional skate park design company, Evergreen Skate Parks. It is set up to be user friendly, challenging enough for the Tony Hawks of the world while still easy to navigate for those just getting into the sport. There is flow between the different features allowing riders to get creative with their lines and movements instead of going back and forth in a straight line like the previous park. A large bowl feature is the focal point, with the connecting park and street-style obstacles presenting additional challenges. The park is also set up to be conducive to different events with a large crescent area and sidewalk around it where a stage, tents or judges’ booth can be set up for competitions. It’s also very aesthetically pleasing to those passing by who aren’t skateboarders.
With a growing population of young families alongside empty nesters and recent retirees, the NISPA hopes that the new park will be a place that the late-teen and early-20s crowd can really rally behind.
“Skateboarding teaches you that when you fail you get back up again and again. It’s important for kids to get out there and help them find their own voice, especially if they are not traditional,” Olsen said.
The Skate Park is open to the public at no cost, and all are encouraged to attend the grand opening celebration on Saturday, October 6, sponsored by Raniel Diaz of Our Town CDA. Mayor Widmyer will be on hand for a ribbon cutting, and there will be local vendors, food trucks and Dutch Bros Coffee on site. There will be giveaways and raffles, and professional skateboarding legend Mike Vallely will be on hand to showcase his skills. A positive hip-hop group and three punk-rock bands will also be performing.
With the park open, a huge project is wrapped up for Olsen and NISPA, but that doesn’t mean they are just going to hit the pause button and call it a day.
“In the near future, we want to host more contests, more outreach programs and reach out to other communities around us, and that’s going to continue from here on out,” he said.