Published June 07, 2009, 12:00 AM

Boarders say new Wheeler skate park is nice, but it could be bigger

James Knight used to go downtown and to Canal Park to skateboard with friends. And, he admits, they didn’t always do it where and when it was allowed.

By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune

James Knight used to go downtown and to Canal Park to skateboard with friends. And, he admits, they didn’t always do it where and when it was allowed.

But since the new skate park at Wheeler Field in West Duluth was built, he tends to go there instead.

“It’s fun,” said the Duluth 16-year-old, while practicing stunts last week. “It’s an improvement, definitely. I’m here every day when I don’t work.”

Enticing skateboarders from downtown and Canal Park is what many hoped the long-awaited plaza-style park at 35th Avenue West and Grand Avenue would do. The Wheeler skate park had its grand opening Saturday.

The skate park’s creation was driven by skateboarders and community members who helped raise the $150,000 that was needed. Because of setbacks and delays, the project was reduced in scale and took 10 years.

The 5,600-square-foot concrete skate park built late last fall resembles a long wave and constitutes Phase I of the project. Phase II, extending the concrete area with features for tricks and jumps, will depend on community fundraising efforts because the city doesn’t have the money, Parks and Recreation Director Kathy Bergen said.

Duluth City Councilor Jay Fosle said he has gotten good reviews from his

15-year-old son, Joe, who gives the new skate park an “awesome” rating.

“I wish it was bigger,” Fosle said. “But it’s a good start, and the kids are liking it.”

Ian Berg, 12, and Harrison Moody, 13, both Morgan Park Middle School students, were skateboarding there on a recent evening.

“It’s pretty nice,” Ian said. “They keep it clean. No one sprays paint on it.”

The two shy away from skateboarding downtown and in Canal Park, which is more for older skaters, they said.

They’re also afraid of police cracking down on skateboarders.

“A lot of my friends are afraid,” Harrison said. “This is a safer place because I don’t want to get a ticket.”

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