Soon there’ll be ollies and nollies at the train station

The idea to build a skate plaza in Roosevelt Park at the foot of the iconic train station wasn’t picked at random. It was a community decision, say members of the Roosevelt Park Conservancy. Over the past few years, people were asked what they’d like to see put in the space. It turned out the top two answers were an amphitheater and a skate park.

Now, three and a half years later after the initial ask, there are plans in the works for both, as well as conversations about sports fields and more.

A proposed layout for Roosevelt Park's redevelopment

“The emphasis was on the immediate community, but we surveyed the whole city of Detroit,” says Phil Cooley, board member of the Roosevelt Park Conservancy. “But we’d like to consider it a regional park as well.”

From its starting point on, the project has been extremely open and inclusive. This notion applies all the way down to the design itself. That’s why they’re not calling their proposal a skate park– it’s a skate plaza. Instead of an isolated park, there will be skate-able elements in an open space, shared with pedestrians, bikers and other athletes. Both skaters and non-skaters will be welcome.

At a recent meeting at the Gaelic League, I looked around a room with images of skate spots from around the country posted on the walls. Gathered around them, I saw a bunch of very energized 10-, 12-, and 15-year-old kids, who’d lobbied hard for the skate plaza. It’s no wonder. One out of 10 teenagers owns a skateboard, so it seems this new space will engage kids in the city and around it.

A few skate installations that could be included in Roosevelt's plaza. Stickers indicate votes.

Completely crowd-sourced, everyone who attended the meeting had a chance to vote on the design elements they liked most. After voting, everyone broke into smaller discussion groups. All input from the meeting will be forwarded on to the California Skateparks, the company who is designing the plaza. They’ll be bringing several models to the next community meeting for feedback. After the final votes are in and funding is secured, construction could start as early as next spring. As much as possible, the group will be hiring local.

If you missed the meeting, you can still voice your opinion, vote and even add other pictures of skate parks for inspiration on their Facebook event page. They’ll be checking back on it for the next few weeks.

The next community meeting is planned for August 19. Kaija Wuollet, a volunteer architect, expects it to be held at the Gaelic League around 6 pm, but the best way to keep up with future events is through the Roosevelt Park Conservancy’s Facebook or blog.

To help jump start the fundraising process, Roosevelt Park Conservancy is throwing a music festival on August 20th. A large part of the local skate community is already planning on attending as are skate shops, and even some professional skaters. All of the proceeds from the festival will go toward the construction of the skate plaza. They’re looking for volunteers to work the event, so if you’d like to sign up to tend bars, sell tickets or clean up, you can do so here. They’re offering free food and beverage tickets for each two hour shift you work.

For more information on Roosevelt Park and its future plans, visit their website:

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