Thursday afternoon droves of youth poured into a once-vacant lot next to the Sixth Street Softball Complex.
But they weren't there to play softball.
They carried skateboards. They wheeled BMXs. They wore smiles. And for several hours between the time school let out until the sun went down, they shredded ramps, rode rails and vaulted into the air with gravity defying tricks.
T-R PHOTO BY DAVID ALEXANDER
Devon Downs, 16, grinds the spine at the Marshalltown Skate Park Thursday afternoon. Additions to the park, including the features shown here, opened Wednesday.
The Marshalltown Skate Park is open.
"Go to the basketball courts. Go to the tennis courts. They're empty," said Lucas Baedke, avid BMX rider and member of the Skate Park Committee. "Go to the skate park: it's packed."
Phase one of construction of the $67,000 skate park has been completed. Terry Gray, Parks and Recreation director, said minor details like one of the grind rails still needing to be installed have yet to be complete, but the park is ready to go.
Skate Park user Clifton Howell, 18, called the new additions "delicious."
Matt Gerstandt, owner of Mike's Bikes and Skate Park Committee member, said it is important kids have a place to ride their bikes and skateboards safely. And the area on Sixth Street is perfect: it is easy monitor and is close enough to either end of town that anyone can get to it fairly easily.
"When we were young, there was no one our age to step up," Baedke said of why he and Gerstandt got involved with the effort to build the park.
The park boasts concrete benches, a manual pad, a center set including steps, spine and railing as well as a bank wrap with a pyramid corner. The city provided half the money with the contingency that the committee provide the other half.
Donations and grants through the Martha Ellen Tye Foundation and Community Foundation as well as the Noon Optimists Club and others provided the remaining money for the park.
Although the park doesn't close, Gray said Parks and Recreation discourages use when weather is poor.
Angela Linns-Eich, chair of the Skate Park Committee, said she visits the park once a week. When she drove by Wednesday, she couldn't believe how many kids were at the park. Wide grins painted their faces. They pounded each other's fists in a show of camaraderie.
She had tears in her eyes.
"It's exactly what I thought it would be but better," she said. "It really is a step for the community they have wrapped their arms around this project and that is why it is here today."
Gerstandt, whose shop donated a BMX for the second annual Skate Park Fest in June, said the skate park keeps the community young and ensures youth have a stake in staying in Marshalltown.
Linns-Eich said it helps kids build healthy relationships with their peers and gives them a place where they feel a sense of belonging.
Grant Leonard, 18, said he is from Iowa City and the skate park offers skaters and BMXers a chance to come together and learn from one another. He said he was excited when he heard about the expansion.
"It's a better opportunity for people to do what they do," he said.
Thursday afternoon, the vote was unanimous: the spine is the best feature.
But the effort is far from complete. As users build their repertoire and add more tricks to their arsenal, members of the Skate Park Committee said they hope the park will grow with its users.
Gerstandt said he hopes once everyone sees how much need there is for the skate park, the city will continue to fund future expansions.
Baedke, who works at Mike's Bikes, said skating and BMXing fosters healthy competition. He is almost 28, and he still uses the park. He and Gerstandt ride together and push each other to be better. It's the nature of riding.
"It's positive peer pressure," he said.