The renovation plans for Rhodes Park were first discussed in an almost empty Boise City Council work session on a chilly afternoon in February. The public unveiling of the skatepark designs on the hot summer evening of July 29 could not have been more different.
Nearly 250 people stood around the Fort Boise skatepark eating hot dogs, bobbing their heads to music blaring from giant speakers and watching—naturally—skateboarding. Teenagers in flat-brim ball caps, tank tops and skater shoes crowded around a giant TV by the skatepark to get a glimpse of the new Rhodes Park renderings.
“This [skatepark] is a small footprint of what the new park will be,” said Josh Davis, a Boise Skateboard Association board member. “The new park will allow a lot of different skateboarders to skate at the same time. There’s things for every ability level.”
For almost a decade, the Boise Skateboard Association has had a collective dream of building a better skatepark under the I-84 overpasses between 15th and 16th streets. They sold T-shirts and hot chocolate and held bake sales to earn enough to revamp the park.
They weren’t making much progress but in December 2014, the J.A and Kathryn Albertson Foundation announced a donation of $1.25 million to build a new park, with another $300,000 thrown in by the city.
“We believe that learning happens anywhere anytime,” said Nick Groff, a spokesman for the foundation. “I was sitting here before this [unveiling] started and watched a kid try a trick over one of these cones eight or nine different times. Each time, he got frustrated. But each time, he got better. He was finally able to land the trick. If you can do that at a skatepark, that’s going to transfer into every aspect of your life.”
The new designs, drawn up by Seattle-based design and construction company, Grindline Skateparks, feature both street and transitional skating: including traditional features like rails, boxes and curbs will dot the area, as well as deep bowls and steep ramps.
Other park obstacles include quarter pipes, euro gaps, hubba ledges, half pyramids, transition volcanos, benches, slappy curbs, pool pockets, pro-bowls, soft hips and a Jersey barrier.
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Boise Skateboard Assocation
This reincarnation of Rhodes Park is slated to be done by the early spring of 2016.
For Chris Lenington, this is all good news. Lenington grew up skating, but he spends most of his time at the Fort Boise skatepark rather than making the trek to Rhodes Park. He said he likes the “transitionals” more than street skating.
“We like more bowls, it’s more flowy. I think it’s less risk. You can still have a lot of fun without trying super hard tricks, you can just ride around,” Lenington said. “There wasn’t a lot to do [at Rhodes Park] and what there was to do, people had done it a million times.”
The new park will also have power outlets so live bands and DJs can play for events like Skatefort at the Treefort Music Fest.
The location of the new skatepark became a high-profile area after dozens of people without a home congregated under the bridges throughout the past year. The sidewalks grew crowded with mattresses, blankets, milk crates, plastic bottles and bags, clothes, bikes, strollers and even a Christmas tree. While the accumulation of people at Rhodes Park became a humanitarian problem—especially during the winter and summer months—one skateboarder described the area as “scummy and bummy.”
In October 2014, the area reached an all-time low when a man was beaten to death. Now, both the old skatepark and the sidewalks are fenced off.
Blake Slater, a bike patrol officer for the Boise Police Department, has spent a lot of time keeping the peace at Rhodes Park. He told Boise Weekly he expects the new skatepark to significantly change the area.
“I think you’ll see an increase in the number of park users who are less intimidated by the homeless population that used to occupy that space,” Slater said. “On a daily basis, you would see 10 or 12 skateboarders. I would say that number will probably double.”
Slater said many people who began living in or around the skatepark used to live along the Boise River, but police pushed them away from the Greenbelt after too many reports of crime.
He also said displaced people liked the spot under the bridge because it was closer to shelters like the River of Life and Corpus Christi. He doesn’t suspect, however, they’ll return after the park is completed next spring.
“They understand that sleeping in a children’s skatepark is unacceptable,” Slater said. “We did enough education, unfortunately followed by a little enforcement, but that’s ultimately what we’re there to do.”
He said he helped put many people in touch with services to get them off the streets, but he said a new skatepark won’t eliminate the issue of homelessness anytime soon.
“That’s a social problem that the police department is not going to solve. We can’t solve it,” Slater said. “They were always here, they just weren’t concentrated in such a high-profile area. The numbers have actually gone down.”
Davis, from the Boise Skateboard Association, said he thinks the new park is triggering change.
“We’re bringing in a new park, giving kids a place to go and at the same time, if there’s other conversations happening that are going to benefit other parts of our society, that’s fantastic, too,” Davis said. “It’s resulting in some good things.”
Construction on the new park began on July 27 and should be finished by February 2016.