years in the making, crooked river skate park brings world-class facility to the flats

It’s not too late to get out and skate Crooked River, before the snow starts to fall.
On Friday at 4 p.m. rain, snow or shine, join Mayor Frank Jackson and Councilman Joe Cimperman in cutting the ribbon and officially welcoming Crooked River Skate Park to the community. The project is aimed at pumping life back into the Flats around Rivergate Park, joining Ohio City Bicyle Co-op, the Cleveland Rowing Foundation and others.
In 2012, the city issued a $758,000 contract to Seattle-based design and construction crew Grindline. They also garnered a $25,000 Tony Hawk Foundation Grant, which enabled the park to add on the kidney bowl and additionally resulted in increased national publicity for the park.

Vince Frantz, director of the Public Square Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting skateboarding, spearheaded the project. Since skate parks are typically located in the suburbs and rarely in the city proper, he believes that Crooked River will provide a unique draw to the city. “We think that ultimately this skate park will be a way to engage with the community and become a way for kids to create a strong tie to the community,” says Frantz. 
Frantz also helped to spearhead construction of the Lakewood Skate Park and teaches skate lessons at the Bay Village Skate & Bike Park. He views skateboarding as a lesson in resilience and creativity. “Skating is a shared experience of pushing your skills to the very edge and repeating them. It’s an entrepreneurial spirit not taught in school but taught on a toy,” he says. “It’s a skill in improvisation — like seeing jazz performed.”
Although the park officially opens Friday, the skate portion was completed before Halloween and has already entertained about 50-60 people on an average day since its completion. Before Crooked River opened, Clevelanders had to travel at least two hours in order to skate something of equal caliber. “We brought the passion,” Frantz says. “There’s a rich history of skateboarding in Cleveland and there are a lot of talented skaters that we have lost to the West Coast. “
The park also features a public art installation that will serve as a shelter for shade. “It’s a good use of the public art budget to get something iconic but also functional,” Frantz says. “During the summer it’ll provide shade; it’s sort of derivative of a shipping container and it’s fitting for the riverfront." 

The park’s construction hit a major roadblock in March 2013, when preliminary digging revealed that the dredging soil from the river was too unstable to create a solid base for the park. They relocated the site directly north of the original site and brought in several tons of concrete to use as a solid base.
“Part of the goal was to build a skate park that draws the continuum of generations of skaters together,” Frantz said. The final design chosen was the “Snake Run” concept featuring an iconic snake run and deep kidney bowl along with various street/flow elements and double ledge lines around the edge. It features a mix of concrete, brick, granite and pool coping.
Frantz calls the park a "sculpture" that can be "interpreted on wheels" by skaters. Another unique component of the project was that the construction crew, which consisted of about eight experts, included five local skaters. A total of 35 local skaters and supporters also volunteered in landscaping the park.
Crooked River Skate Park is planning a grand opening in the spring which Frantz hopes will include skateboard demos from local and national skaters and live music. “We can’t rule out a visit from Tony Hawk — but it’s not official yet,” he said.

Editor's note: For an in-depth look at skateboarding in the CLE, check out this article by Fresh Water writer Lee Chilcote that appeared in Scene in May 2012. 

Read more articles by Jacqueline Bon.

Jacqueline Bon is a freelance writer that has been contributing to Fresh Water Cleveland since 2014. As a journalist by trade and self-taught photographer, she has a lot of curiosity in people and their stories. She is a graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University and has pursued film and digital photography for a decade. She is likely to be the first person on the dance floor, especially if you put on Prince.
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