If you head to the Jackson Hole Skatepark on an afternoon during the school year, you’re bound to find a couple of things.
One, there will be a pile of backpacks off the side where eager skaters ditch their school stuff to push themselves around their concrete playground. Two, if you want to skate you’ll probably have to wait in line to hit the features that best fit your skill level.
“It’s kind of blowing at the seams,” Heide McBride told the News&Guide.
McBride has two sons, both skateboarders. One is 23 and grew up skating at the park, and the other is 10 and has skated there for several years. McBride said the crowd at the skatepark used to be mostly older kids and adults, but the skateboarding community has diversified, with more younger kids spending their time kicking around the park that sits in the Gregory Lane complex that houses Teton County School District No. 1 buildings.
The proliferation of skateboarders has created an unsafe situation, with too many athletes crammed into the park, McBride told the school district board of trustees during public comment at its July meeting.
“It’s so crowded at certain times,” she told the board. “There are no bowls we’re considering, just a flat area with above-ground features.”
McBride is part of the Jackson Hole Skatepark Coalition, a group of people, including many parents, interested in seeing the park grow and continue to be a safe, free place kids can congregate. The coalition has enlisted the help of Jeff Moran, marketing director at the Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club and an avid skateboarder.
Moran has organized skateboard camps for the Ski Club for years, as well as the Wild West Skateboard Contest Series, which features competitions at the Jackson park and others in the region. As a leader in the skateboard community, Moran attested to the growth.
“I can speak to the fact that the park is busier and busier,” he told the board. “Our camps sell out well in advance. Like many parks in Jackson it may not be busy all the time, but at peak hours it’s mayhem.”
The coalition wants to expand the skatepark’s perimeter, an almost 7,000-square-foot increase, to add some easier terrain, which could push beginner skaters into the periphery. Other than fundraising to cover the costs of construction, the biggest hurdle is the fact that jurisdiction over the skatepark isn’t simple.
The state of Wyoming owns the land, though school district Trustee Keith Gingery told the News&Guide the district has wide latitude over what happens to it. The Teton County/Jackson Parks and Recreation Department manages the skatepark itself, meaning the coalition has to convince Parks and Rec and the school district the expansion is necessary.
McBride has been working with Parks and Rec Director Steve Ashworth, who she said supports the expansion. With Ashworth on board, convincing the school district is the next step, which might be doable, as long as the fundraising goes well.
“I think everybody’s in support,” Gingery said. “But it’s easier to approve something once there is a plan everybody can look at.”
To that end, he said, McBride will need to work with Assistant Superintendent Jeff Daugherty and draw up a design for the school board to consider. Anna Butler, an architect who skated the park when she was growing up, has offered to develop the plans.
Though McBride and Moran’s pitch occurred during public comment, meaning it wasn’t a specific item for the board to consider at that meeting, trustees were generally interested in the expansion, though Trustee Janine Teske did want to ensure the park remains a safe place for kids.
“It wasn’t very many years ago we talked about shutting that down,” she said at the meeting. “I’d need to see evidence we’ve shut the drinking there down … before agreeing to expand it.”
Even with those safety concerns in mind, the trustees acknowledged the skatepark is a quality resource for the valley’s kids. And although McBride told the board the coalition is looking for a location for a second skatepark — something that will take years — the trustees agreed that the location near schools made it easy for kids to use and gave it an element of safety.
“I love that it’s in this safe zone of town,” Trustee Annie Band said. “There are so many kids not doing team-type sports. If those concerns can be addressed in some way it could be a very nice idea.”