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Skate park group sets sights on Memorial Park

The Lakes Area Skatepark Association has preliminary designs for what a skate park could look like in the Mill Avenue parking lot at Brainerd's Memorial Park.

Artistic rendering of a skate park
A design rendering shows what a 15,000-square-foot skate park could look like at Memorial Park in Brainerd. To see more images, go to www.brainerddispatch.com
Contributed / Spohn Ranch
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BRAINERD — Support, donations and plans are mounting for a skate park in Brainerd.

While the project is still in its early stages, the Lakes Area Skatepark Association has preliminary designs for a park and the go-ahead from city officials to eventually build it in Memorial Park.

“The skate park is great for the community,” Jake Rennaker told Parks Board members in March. “It fills the need for many youth riders. It’s a healthy outlet for people. It creates tourism, and it’s a perfect addition for Brainerd because you guys are trying to make positive changes, and we can see that. A lot of people can see that, and the skate park would be a great addition.”

Rennaker is part of the Lakes Area Skatepark Association, a nonprofit raising money to bring a skate park to the Brainerd lakes area.

The group has just over $7,000 in the bank through local fundraising efforts, and Rennaker hopes to add to the total with larger donations and grants over the next four or five years, now that community support is ramping up and plans are in place.

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Professional designs from Spohn Ranch, a skatepark design and construction firm in California, will help, too.

“We were working with them the last year or so, and they were, thankfully, so confident in our project that they wanted to do some pro bono work for us,” Rennaker said during an interview Tuesday, May 10.

Memorial Park parking area.
Vehicles dot portions of the parking lot at Memorial Park Wednesday, May 11, 2022, in Brainerd. Skatepark organizers state the parking lot on the southwest side of the park along Mill Avenue is underused and would create a prime location for a skatepark in Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Though it is not a final plan, the conceptual design from Spohn Ranch shows what a 15,000-square-foot skate park could look like in Brainerd.

After weighing the pros and cons of various locations throughout the city, Rennaker said he and his team landed on Memorial Park as the preferred spot. The parking lot on the southwest side of the park along Mill Avenue is underused, Rennaker told the Parks Board, saying it would make the perfect spot for a skate park. It’s also a flat, dry, compacted space essential for building a skate park, is visible enough to promote use and deter things like vandalism, and is already equipped with amenities like lighting, bathrooms and parking, as the park would only take up a portion of the lot.

When asked about safety measures, as the park would be in the midst of a parking lot, Rennaker said there would be buffers around the skating area so users would be separated from vehicles. While the skate park itself would be about 15,000 square feet, Rennaker said the space could take up about 30,000 square feet with landscaping and sidewalks, roughly a third of the 90,000-square-foot parking lot.

A graphic rendering shows a skate park in the parking lot at Memorial Park in Brainerd.
A design rendering shows what a skate park could look like in the Mill Avenue parking lot in Brainerd's Memorial Park.
Contributed / Spohn Ranch

Parks Board members supported the idea in March, with Board Chair Troy Rushmeyer saying it is a great vision for the community, and board member Kevin Yeager commending Rennaker on all the work he and his group have put into the project.

“I cannot think of one possible objection in my mind that I would have to this,” Yeager said, noting he is not a fan of parking lots and feels a low-maintenance skate park would be a perfect fit for the space.

Skating in Brainerd

Brainerd previously had a skate park at Jaycees Park, but it closed in 2012 when the League of Minnesota Cities deemed it a liability issue. According to a December 2012 Brainerd Dispatch story, former Parks Director Tony Sailer said there were instances of graffiti at the park, but perhaps the bigger issue was the cracked and uneven concrete pad the park was on, increasing the risk of serious injuries.

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Rennaker said that park was built in a swampy area, which likely contributed to the cracking concrete.

Right now, the closest skate park is in Crosby, which can be tough for kids to get to if they do not have transportation and it’s smaller than the park Rennaker hopes to build in Brainerd.

And he hopes that park will be much more than just a skate park.

“Skateboarding, extreme sports are going to happen no matter what, no matter if there’s a skate park or not, so it’s better to have a park where it’s safer, where people can kind of get together in a controlled environment," Jake Rennaker said.

Through a program called PUSH, the Lakes Area Skatepark Association is working to combine the powers of extreme sports and community involvement to not only raise funds for the park but also promote wellness.

“We want to get people outside. We want to get people active outdoors because skateboarding, scootering, whatever, is mentally and physically healthy,” Rennaker said, noting the group had a spring skate session in Crosby recently to ring in the warm weather and spread the word.

They have also volunteered at events like the Brainerd Jaycees Ice fishing Extravaganza, the Gull Lake Frozen Fore and the Run for the Lakes, helping out their community and gathering donations for the park along the way.

“We’re trying to promote extreme sports, but we’re also trying to raise some money at the same time,” he added.

Through PUSH, organizers are spreading their message about the positive impacts extreme sports can have on physical health, mental health, reducing illicit behavior and fostering community among youths.

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Fundraising

Next up for fundraising is a citywide cleanup day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 21, dubbed Thrash the Trash.

Brainerd residents will be able to drop off solid waste and other landfill items, like furniture, appliances, mattresses, tires, compost and yard debris at the Crow Wing County Judicial Center parking lot. Skatepark volunteers will collect the items and transport them to the landfill. While the event itself is free for residents, volunteers will collect minimum fees required to drop certain items off at the landfill and will connect any other donations for their cause.

All Brainerd residents will be able to participate but must show proof of residency, preferably a Brainerd Public Utilities bill.

The group will also have a booth at Arts in the Park June 26 at Gregory Park.

Anyone interested in donating to the skate park effort can do so at lakesareaskatepark.org or by visiting donation boxes at Dough Bros Woodfire Kitchen, Shep’s on 6th or Dunmire’s Bar and Grill.

Those interested in becoming involved in the effort can email lakesareaskatepark@gmail.com or reach out to the group on Facebook or Instagram.

More by Theresa Bourke
Gabe Johnson is running for a third term on the Brainerd City Council against challengers Emily LeClaire and Johnathan Miller.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.

Related Topics: PARK BOARDNONPROFITS
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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