BELDING — When a meeting took place to discuss the creation of a skate park in Belding Thursday night, no one expected the most vocal person in attendance to be 14-year old Tessa Walters.
Recreation Board and City Council members sat and listened as the Belding Middle School eighth grader politely raised her hand, again and again, with ideas and input on a new skate park at Riverside Park in Belding.
“I have a lot of friends who like to skate, but we don’t have anywhere to go,” Walters said. “Most of us have to go in the parking lots in town, but it would be so cool to have a park where we could all go together and hang out.”
She was the lone student in what was hoping to be a larger gathering of students for input on the park, but if you asked Recreation Advisory Board member Scott McNeal, it sounded as if the room was full.
“I think she provided enough ideas to cover 20 students,” McNeal said. “This has been very uplifting, as we know there are many more kids like Tessa who want a skate park in this town.”
The park is currently planned to be built in three separate phases, each increasing in cost.
City Councilman Roger Wills said building the park in phases would provide the opportunity to start building as early as this spring.
“We have nearly $20,000 already raised to start building,” Wills said. “We just need kids to tell us what it is they want in this park.”
According to Wills, the first phase of construction would cost approximately $19,250, with eventual completion of all three phases estimated to cost about $86,000.
Funding for the park has already been provided in part by the city ($5,100), an anonymous donor ($5,000-$10,000) and a pledge from Stahlin Enclosures ($10,000) in Belding.
Wills said the key to making a skate park a reality is student involvement and finding a way to get kids who would likely use the part to take ownership in fundraising efforts.
“We haven’t started any fundraising yet,” Wills said. “We’re looking from ideas, directly from the kids in this city, on what can be done to raise money.”
Currently, skaters have to travel out of town to Saranac or Lowell to enjoy the luxury of a skate park, which is not an option for most kids, according to Wills.
“It takes a lot of people to make something like this happen,” Wills said. “Unfortunately I don’t think we’re going to front up that much more money until we have more kids involved than parents.
“None of us are skate board experts, we just know that kids here in Belding need this type of activity,” Wills continued. “There isn’t really that much available in town for kids who participate in nontraditional sports like skateboarding.”
McNeal said he’s hoping student fundraising could potentially lead to further grants from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
“If (the children) could raise $25,000, we could apply for a DNR grant,” he said. “It’s very possible the DNR could match that amount. When looking for $80,000 in total funds, that’s a huge amount to have covered.”
Wills said the city is currently looking to work with the company, Skate Wave, which has helped build a park in Saranac.
“If you look at the park in Saranac, they went through Skate Wave and have a great product,” he said. “The ability to build the park in phases is by far the greatest advantage.”
Wills said the most important thing is to make sure the kids in the city have a voice when building this park.
“I don’t skateboard,” Wills said. “I know nothing about skateboarding, but I know the kids in this city are very passionate about it and I want to hear their ideas and make sure they contribute as much as possible.”
Another meeting has been scheduled for 1 p.m. on Jan 21 at the Pere Marquette Depot on 100 Depot St. in downtown Belding. Kids and their parents interested in the park are encouraged to attend.
Wills said there will be pizza available for kids who attend and hopes kids will bring their own skateboard and socialize with other skateboarders at the meeting. There will also be rubber bracelets given out featuring a “Skate Belding” slogan to help spread the word.
“We’re really trying to reach out, especially for fundraising ideas,” he said. “But we’re still hoping to generate even more ideas for the park itself.”