Residents share concerns about future of skate park, plaza | News, Sports, Jobs


News photo by Steve Schulwitz Levi Behnke, left, and his mother Marlena Gibson share their concerns about the condition of the Alpena skatepark. Gibson said the condition of the park was poor and encouraged the Alpena City Council to fix, improve and maintain it better.

ALPENA — Residents made their voices heard on the future of Culligan Plaza and Riverside Skate Park at the Alpena City Council meeting on Monday.

The city recently decided to go ahead with improvements to Culligan Plaza, but once a preliminary design rendering was released, it sparked backlash from many people who were disappointed with the proposed plan. .

People were also upset that the community was not involved in the creation process and the price of the proposed project.

The project is on hold until the local Culligan Plaza committee meeting later this month, where the design and direction of the project will be reviewed. The immediate future of the skate park is still uncertain, but the city intends to have the park repaired and open as soon as possible.

Things came to a head at Monday’s meeting as public comment on the two proposed drafts lasted more than an hour.

It was recommended at the council meeting that some members of the public be included in future meetings to help shape the plan for the square.

Last week, city officials closed the popular 9th Avenue skate park until further notice, saying it had become unsafe. In a news release, the city said it was working with multiple ramp supply companies to secure the necessary materials and skilled labor — if needed — to complete the repairs.

This news did not sit well with many residents, and a campaign to retrofit the park with concrete ramps and make it more attractive to young locals soon began.

The skate park was born out of an effort between a skateboarding and inline skating group, citizens and the city. This resulted in the development of this community recreational skateboard park, which has been a hit with children and teens for many years.

Campaign organizer Isaac Boda said the skate park is vital amenity for local youngsters and he believes children deserve a facility that is fun and safe but also able to withstand the wear and tear of northern weather. east of Michigan.

He said a concrete park would be more durable and allow scooters to be used on park ramps. Boda added that he thinks the city should have maintained the park better and improved it over the years.

“I was there for the grand opening and I remember the temporary park before the skate park was built,” Boda said. “My son has made all his friends at this park and it brings people together, especially children. This all should have been done years ago and the fact that it got to the point where it had to be closed is an embarrassment to taxpayers.

City engineer Steve Shultz said the skate portion had deteriorated to the point that it was unsafe and needed to be shut down. He said about two years ago the city started contacting skatepark contractors, but the calls weren’t returned.

Now, Shultz said, he’s organizing a group of interested partners to research and plan for the future of the skate park, which would include immediate repairs and larger upgrades in the future.

“There are a lot of things I want to talk about with the group we’re building right now,” he said. “That’s how this project will be done, it’s by involving people. But now we want to get the park back up and running. It could be a two-step process. Fix what’s there, then consider a redesign.

A group wanting more input into Culligan Plaza’s new design was added to the council meeting agenda last week. They expressed concerns – mostly on social media – about the park’s future and that the community had little say in the new design.

The proposed rendering of the square shows a smaller fountain being built in one of the corners of the park, while arcades and a large lighted tower – able to change color – would be erected near the front of the park.

Much of the furor over the design centered around the tower, which councilor Cindy Johnson said at the meeting will likely be taken out of the design.

People have also expressed their dissatisfaction with the removal of several of the trees from the current place in the render and the way the project is funded.

The project budget is $320,000. A combination of funding from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act and grants from the First Federal Foundation and the Alpena Youth and Recreation Committee would pay for the proposed improvements.

Petitions regarding both projects have been posted on, which is an online petition. As of Monday afternoon, the petition to reconsider the design of the downtown plaza had about 1,200 signatures and the petition Convert the Alpena Skatepark from Wood to Concrete had nearly 800 supporters.

According to a News analysis, not everyone who signed the petition is from Alpena.

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