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Design work begins on new skateboard park

A designer from a California-based firm has begun the work that will bring Lawton its second skatepark.

Spohn Ranch Skateparks, working with planning and recreation officials and the Lawton Enhancement Trust Authority (LETA), held a design workshop last week to get input from the most important people in the equation  those who will use the park. The idea was to gather the data on exactly what elements Lawton's park should have and Spohn designer Vincent Onel said he would need about a month to develop conceptual designs, then return to Lawton to talk to skaters and bikers again before launching the process that will create construction designs.

Twenty young residents, including five BMX bikers, attended the two-hour session to get an explanation of the project and the design process before looking over jump elements that could be included in the new park and voting on their favorites.

It was similar to the process city officials used when they created the skatepark in Louise D. McMahon Park at Southwest 38th Street and West Lee Boulevard. Then, designers from American Ramp Company met with skateboard enthusiasts to collect the elements that RCJ Construction built into a 9,000-square-foot, $275,000 park that opened in September 2002. While the park has remained well-used over the years, it is showing its age in ways such as light rust and worn surfaces. The park is comprised mostly of metal ramps, pipes and boxes, divided into two areas to keep beginners away from experts.

Existing park has limits

Skateboarders say while they still use the park, it has limits and doesn't include the streetscape features (such as stairs and handrails) that many skaters and BMX bikers prefer. There are other problems: there are no lights; the metal ramps and pipes get "real hot" or "slick," depending on weather conditions; drainage is poor; there is no shade; and when many riders use the park at the same time, there is a bottleneck. While one rider noted that the "park out there is no fun," many riders say it still is well used.

"It's there," one explained.

Community Services Director Richard Rogalski said there is another problem for riders without transportation. A LATS fixed route travels that area of West Lee Boulevard, but once a rider gets off at Southwest 38th Street, it's a half-mile walk to the skatepark on the south side of McMahon Park, with half that distance along a narrow road with no sidewalks.

Jay Burk, the Ward 4 councilman who chairs LETA, said finances dictated placement of the skatepark in McMahon Park and while that was a good decision at the time, the location does limit some riders. He said that is why LETA, which is funding design plans, helped pick the new skatepark's location in Elmer Thomas Park.

"We believe we need a park that is more centrally located, so kids don't have to go over to Southwest 38th Street," Burk said, adding city officials also are looking at a different kind of park.

Skateboarders, bikers vote for features

Skaterboarders and bikers who attended the design meeting were given a chance to rank their favorite ride elements, based on pictures of elements taken at existing skateparks across the country. Those pictures were put on display, and skaters and bikers voted on their favorite elements by using red dots they pasted on the picture to denote their selections.

Each person got six votes and two elements led the field by a wide margin: a ramp and rail structure, with 13 votes; and stairs, with 12 votes. But votes also were cast for elements such as concrete bowls (the most expensive features because of detail needed to pour concrete), planters and benches, and, of course, rails, ramps and stairs.

The Lawton Constitution

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