City staff and members of the Harbor Springs community announced the Ted Swarthout Memorial Skatepark Project during the city council meeting on August 2, 2021.
The fundraising project, which was brought to the city by Sunny Wagner, aims to revamp the Harbor Springs SK8 Park to honor the vision of Swarthout, Sunny’s brother, who passed away earlier this year while awaiting an organ transplant.
Parks Director Rachel Roon and Harbor Springs SK8 Park coordinator Nate Jacques led the presentation outlining Swarthout’s vision for the new park and the issues with the current park.
Among other issues, Jacques said he believes the current state of the park is unsafe and financially challenging to maintain over time.
The park, which is largely made up of wooden skate structures, has to be moved and reorganized every season and Jacques says that only contributes more to its wear and tear and lack of safety.
“It is the biggest jigsaw puzzle of my life,” said Jacques.
Not only are the structures difficult to maintain, but the asphalt surface they sit on can lead to even more challenges.
“Over time the surface has deteriorated so much that massive cracks, gaps, bumps and weathering issues have made safe skating next to impossible,” said Jacques.
According to the presentation at the meeting, fixing the surface and replacing the wooden structures would require approximately $150,000, but the same issues would eventually come back.
“Skatepark usage has increased over the years,” said Roon. “The locals are using it, the visitors are using it, so it’s something we really need to look at.”
The solution, according to the project, is to transform the park to be made entirely from concrete. This will cut costs in staffing, maintenance and equipment while also eliminating many of the current safety issues.
Evergreen Skateparks is a skatepark company from Portland, Oregon, who have made several parks across the country as well as several already in Michigan. Catherine Coulon, the owner of Evergreen Skateparks, was a friend of Swarthout’s and has committed to helping ensure his vision comes to reality.
“They are the raddest company in the world,” said Jacques. “The fact that we get to work with them in any capacity, we are beyond blessed, it’s like winning the lottery.”
The total cost for the proposed 10,000 square-foot skatepark design is estimated at $350,000-$400,000. The project intends to fundraise a majority of the money, and return to city council again in the late fall to try to gain any necessary additional funding from the city.
“We believe it’s important that Harbor Springs distinguish itself from other park systems in the area, and most importantly give our youth a place to recreate safely,” said Roon. “We have a beautiful landscape and community and we should strive to mirror that beauty in everything we build and do.”
City council members unanimously supported the project and agreed to discuss the project’s funding again in the fall.
“I view it as a positive,” said council member John Lio. “Not only because of added business to the city, but visibility, you know, word gets around.”
City council also went on to review the Zoll Street Beach and its use as a dog park and whether or not changes needed to be made in regards to safety rules and staffing. This was followed by a quick discussion and update on the city’s November 2, 2021 general election.