New Place to Skate

skateboard plaza coming to Lakeshore Park

Tom Giffey, photos by Jesse Johnson

Local skaters like this one (shown here gleaming the cube) at the YMCA skate park will soon have a new place to roll in Eau Claire.
Local skaters like this one (shown here gleaming the cube) at the
YMCA skate park will soon have a new place to roll in Eau Claire.

When city of Eau Claire parks officials created Phoenix Park a decade ago, they intended to build a beautiful, functional gathering place for the public at the confluence of two rivers –  and they did that.

They didn’t intend to build a skateboard plaza – but they did that, too.

Seat planters and other concrete surfaces at Phoenix Park were too tempting to resist for some skaters. Likewise, railings and other structures at Hank Aaron Plaza in Carson Park also have been a draw for skateboarders. Beyond the thucka-thucka-thucka of wheels on concrete, such activity has caused damage to surfaces that weren’t intended for skateboarding.

This reality prompted Phil Fieber, the city’s director of parks, recreation, and forestry, to reach out to the skater community a few years ago to find a solution. “Before you tell kids they can’t do an activity, I like to have a place that you can send them to,” he reasoned. Fieber found that while local skaters appreciated the YMCA Skatepark near Hastings Way, they don’t always want to roll all the way to that part of town – and pay the fee – to use the skate park. It was clear another facility was needed.

Well get ready to ollie with joy: A dedicated (and free) skate plaza will soon be a reality in Eau Claire. On June 11, the City Council approved spending $55,000 to build a skate plaza in Lakeshore Park, just southwest of Lakeshore School near the shore of Half Moon Lake. The contractor, Evergreen Skateparks of Portland, Ore., is expected to begin work around July 22 and finish in four or five weeks. The 2,000-square-foot plaza will cater to beginning to intermediate-level skaters and will include features such as stairs, railings, and low curbs – the kind of things skateboarders already have been commandeering in other parks – but no quarterpipes, bowls, or other large structures.

“It’s intended to be part of a larger system,” Fieber said. “Rather than have one big facility … you’ll have smaller facilities located throughout town, and kids can use the bike trail to go from one to the next.” But don’t expect additional neighborhood skate plazas in the immediate future: It took seven years of work to raise the necessary funds for this one. About 80 percent of the money came from the city’s capital improvement budget, but grants were also received from the Tony Hawk Foundation, Scheels, the Eau Claire Community Foundation, and other entities.

Fieber said the city will study how the new facility is used and how well it fits into the neighborhood. Smaller skate plazas like this one are becoming common in many cities.

“It’s gotten to the point where a place to skateboard in a neighborhood is just not that unusual anymore,” he said.