A crowd of adults, teens, and young kids alike gathered around freshly built concrete walls waiting to drop in and try out their best tricks on skateboards, scooters and even rollerblades. The Belgrade Skate Park was open to all Thursday afternoon.
The Grand Opening Thursday Thrash marked the first time wheels hit the pavement at the long-awaited skating area in Lewis and Clark Park. Gallatin Valley Skate Association volunteers have been working towards their vision for years. Workers from Dreamland Skateparks, an Oregon-based company, finished up their work Wednesday.
“When we started this project, my oldest kids were in fourth and fifth grade,” said volunteer Renae Mattimoe. “Now, they’re a junior and senior.”
After going through several designs, years of meetings with city officials and gathering funds and materials from countless private donors, local businesses and grants, the skate park crew’s hard work paid off. Mattimoe said she could hardly believe how many people showed up for the grand opening.
“I’m shocked, honestly,” she said. “It’s surreal.”
Two 12-year-old Belgrade boys took a break from skating to check out the raffle tickets. A BMX bike and two skateboards were raffled off at the grand opening.
Brandon Clingan said he just started skating this year, but looks forward to honing his skills in the new park.
“I like it because it’s so much closer,” he said. “Before, we had to go all the way to Bozeman.”
Rodney Irwin agreed. He said they came over right after school to check it out.
“I’ve been skating for about three years,” Irwin said.
He listed “kick flips, heel flips and just grinding” among the tricks he plans to learn now that a skate park is so easily accessible.
While skaters eagerly waited their turn around the edges of the park, plenty more community members gathered without boards to appreciate the town’s newest attraction.
“I’ll tell you what’s fun to watch,” said Belgrade City Manager Ted Barkley. “The way the social dynamic just formed instantly. Everyone just knew what to do and where to go without even talking about it. Some of them are really talented.”
He was right. Skaters of all ages just naturally formed lines to use all of the park’s features safely and efficiently. When someone pulled off an impressive trick, faces all around lit up and cheered. When someone fell, a collective cry of amused sympathy echoed around the park.
“This is actually an incredible testament to the effort the kids were willing to put into this and the perseverance of all the parents involved,” Barkley added.
The city manager called the final design for the park the best one yet. He was happy to finally see it come to fruition.
“With the resources they had available, they really nailed it,” he said of the skate park advocates.
Mattimoe attributed the success of the park to the extreme generosity of several local businesses and donors. The entire endeavor cost around $100,000, she said, but it was a bit difficult to keep track of prices because so much was donated.
“I’m just amazed at where it all came from,” Mattimoe said. “It seemed like every time we needed money, it just came in.”
Permanent signs for the park, featuring the names of key supporters like Kenyon Noble and Knife River will go up at the park next week, she said. Landscaping around the park is incomplete, but the city will take care of laying sod in the spring. It’s too late in the season to get that started now, Mattimoe said.
“All that matters is that people can skate on it now,” she said.