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Skate Lovers Roll On

drive begins to build second Eau Claire skatepark

Zack Katz, photos by Andrea Paulseth

VISIONS OF HALFPIPES. A group of local skateboard enthusiasts, including (from left) Christopher Johnson, Gabe Brummett, and Kyle Gostomski, hope to build a skatepark in Boyd Park.
VISIONS OF HALFPIPES. A group of local skateboard enthusiasts,
including (from left) Christopher Johnson, Gabe Brummett, and Kyle
Gostomski, hope to build a skatepark in Boyd Park.

There’s something alluring about pushing around on a plywood deck.

Unlike people in more conventional sports, skateboarders boast the freedom to forgo bounds, fouls, and rules in general. Jaunting around the silky smooth billows of a concrete canvas takes a creative nerve only those who are daring enough to take the initial slide in from a quarter pipe’s coping fully understand.

Flashing back to July 30, 2013, that same allure helped the representative framework for the city’s boarders, the Eau Claire Skaters Association, to complete the construction of Lakeshore Skate Plaza – a successful partnering with Eau Claire’s Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department. The new concrete park was a formidable and long-awaited answer to the YMCA’s shoddy wooden park, which was in its last season.

After an eight-year push for a concrete park, it could be said Eau Claire’s mass of skaters really made their presence known during Lakeshore’s opening weeks, when they graciously crammed the park at all hours of the day. A year has passed, but the plaza’s relatively small size continues to struggle to meet local demand.

“It’s important to have parks accessible from the bike path so kids can skateboard legally.” – Chris Johnson, owner of Passion Board Shop and skateboarding advocate

One of the most unsurprisingly active voices in facilitating the local riding culture is downtown skate shop owner and bona fide godfather of Eau Claire’s scene, Christopher Johnson. As the name of his business – Passion Board Shop – suggests, it’s all packaged in his business model. “We’re still at a point in Eau Claire where you can potentially land a fine for skating just about anywhere,” Johnson said. “For that reason it’s important to have parks accessible from the bike path so kids can skateboard legally. ... Now we have one built, but it’s clearly too small for a city of almost 67,000.”

Even before Lakeshore Skate Plaza was seen through, Johnson said the city parks department’s original notion hinted at the possibility of more concrete ramps budding in parks down the line. In September, that idea will be part of an Eastside Hill Neighborhood Association meeting to discuss Boyd Park as a host for a potential new, larger skatepark.

“Having a park near Water Street makes it fairly central for kids on that side of town,” Johnson said. “But as a parent, I wouldn’t want a kid skating from the north neighborhoods, even downtown, all the way to Lakeshore.”

Johnson said the ECSA’s first phase in support of this motion is a competition-fundraiser at Lakeshore on Sept. 13, following up last year’s contest of the same nature hosted during the park’s inauguration. “The first park cost a little over $40,000, and the city said they’d still match whatever we raised,” Johnson said. “So if we meet our current goal of $75,000, we’ll have $150,000 for a park three times the size of what we have now.”

As per last year’s conventions, the contest will be formatted with entry fees and beginner, intermediate, and advanced divisions. In addition to the pile of boards and clothing already donated by area skateboard companies and vendors, a growing number of local businesses will raffle items.

ECSA frontliner Gabe Brummett, who works to bridge the gap between city planning and skaters, said he’s optimistic about the growing interest stemming out of last year’s build – especially with buzz around the upcoming competition. “We have a lot more momentum with the Lakeshore park there,” Brummett said. “Chris probably wouldn’t be in business without it, so you could say it’s done good things for the local economy.”

For those who have seen donation jars brandishing the ECSA logo popping up at businesses around Eau Claire, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the organization has raised more than $500 for a new park this summer. Johnson said Passion Board Shop and the skate association hopes to build a more serious case for donations by reaching the neighborhood of $2,500 this fall. “We’re pushing for a big family-friendly event to bring the community together,” Brummett said. “This fundraiser is a total group effort.”

Second Annual Eau Claire Skaters Association skateboard competition and raffle • Sat., Sep. 13, 11am-3pm • $5 in advance to enter the contest at Passion Board Shop, 218 N. Dewey St., or wiscowoodskateboards.com (day-of registration is $6) • facebook.com/EauClaireSkateboarders