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There’s a certain stigma associated with being a skateboarder over the age of sixteen. It’s often viewed as something that is grown out of as we get older. With the onset of facial hair, careers, children, and wives, usually comes the notion that there’s no time left to enjoy the shred and that one should just hang the hobby out to dry. Because that’s all it is, just a hobby right? Wrong.
For those who’ve been actively and sometimes intimately involved in skateboarding culture it’s far more than just a hobby. I’d be remiss and also terribly cliche by calling it a lifestyle, it’s more like an abyss. An abyss of immense talent, ingenuity, individuality and of course, a heightened threshold for pain. Each year it progresses, old records are broken and twelve year olds are setting the new ones. The envelope is constantly being pushed farther into realms that ten years ago, could only be dreamed of. There is no end to it’s awesomeness, it only gets better and better.
Let’s take skateboarding and apply it locally. Long story short, Duluth is one of the least accommodating places to be a skateboarder. Not only is it illegal practically everywhere in the city, but the two skateparks we do have are pretty unimpressive. The Pocket Park, located behind the Depot parking lot is an absolute disgrace both structurally and spatially. The park at Wheeler Field in West Duluth doesn’t bode much better. There’s 13,000 people in Bemidji MN. Take a look at their skatepark on Google sometime. It’s huge. Though almost all of it was privately funded, it got a lot of attention as skateboarders in the city literally had nowhere to legally skateboard.
In Duluth’s case, skateboarders are becoming tired of dealing with the city and acquiring private donations so they’re taking matters into their own hands. With bags of concrete and volunteered labor. Denny Davey and Brian Cody have each been skateboarding for twenty plus years and are both in their thirties. They’re the brains and brawn behind the recent do-it-yourself skatepark creations at 63rd avenue west. They’ve got the money, they’ve got the locations all they need are some helping hands and maybe permission.
MJ: What made you want to do this?
DD: I was skating at the Eau Claire park in Wisconsin and that sparked the idea. It sort of reignited my passion for skateboarding. (Denney has been on skateboard sabbatical for a few years) There’s been a few DIY spots around town but we wanted to do something bigger. Plus we generated $1500 in pledges.
BC: There weren’t skateparks when we were kids so we just went looking for different things to skate. We’d hop fences and steal scraps of plywood and build ramps. We didn’t need permission or zoning permits. We’d just build something and skate it.
MJ: How’s the progress?
BC: Good. Denny is the muscle behind the operation as well as the organizer. We’ve had a few different people helping or donating money. Dennis has done most of the work so far. We’re also working on starting up a line of t-shirts, hats and skateboards on behalf of Bill Howes who owns local skateboard company MoFunna. We’re going to be starting up a Facebook page and having volunteer sign up sheets at Damage BoardShop in West Duluth.
DD: We’ve put in about 36 hours and 27 bags of concrete so far. Plus we had to guard it while it was still wet so the hoards of neighborhood kids didn’t mess it up. Next we’re building a little concrete mound and a vert wall which should be done by week’s end.
MJ: How can others get involved?
BC: We’d like to see the younger kids getting involved, not just the older guys. I want to show the local kids the skateboarding I fell in love with. We’d like to make Damage BoardShop the headquarters for the operation. Kids can sign up to volunteer there. We’re going to making a coordination calendar. but we are in need of a labor force.
DD: Duluth’s skateboard scene needs a kick in the pants and something new to skate and the only way that will happen is if we do it ourselves.
See the progress of the DIY skatepark at 63rd avenue West under the freeway. And tune in next week for information on the next DIY site.