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Oak Creek skate park still a thrill, almost 10 years later

July 29, 2014

Oak Creek — At the peak of the day, the Oak Creek skate park, nestled inside Abendschein Park near the rail road tracks, looks like a forgotten playground. Its half-pipe, box ramp and rails show only scars of inline skate grind marks or scuffs from teenagers' shoes scraping against the concrete.

At 1 p.m. on a Wednesday, and the average teenager may still be sleeping or avoiding the hot summer sun before venturing out of the house. But come 7 p.m., the skate park is a hot spot. More than 20 people — adults, teens and kids — are cruising over inclines, practicing tricks with friends or nervously trying on skates for the first time.

The turnout is impressive, even after almost 10 years since the skate park was first built at East Middle School in 2005 and then relocated to Abendschein after the middle school had to be demolished and rebuilt.

"I'm really happy to see how much it's used," said Steve Kaplan, an Oak Creek resident who headed the committee almost 10 years ago to design the skate park. "When I skateboarded, there were not skate parks to go to. We went to a lot of businesses, schools and different areas and we'd get kicked out of them because it was private property. Having a skate park in the community gives the kids somewhere to go,"

Kaplan, who grew up in Racine, actively skateboarded from fifth grade through high school. Nowadays, he and his son will visit the park at Abendschein twice a month to revisit the obstacles that Kaplan helped design.

"Quite a bit goes into a skate park," said Doug Schachtner, former director of parks, recreation and forestry. Schachtner spearheaded the skate park's creation, along with citizen input. At the time, East provided the best location because of its parking lot, concrete surfaces, lighting and proximity to the park's target demographic — kids.

"It was very popular, which was good to see so there was support," Schachtner said.

With the demolition and rebuilding of the middle school between 2007 and 2008, the city sought to rebuild the skate park at Abendschein, which was also being groomed to the park it is today. The park draws skaters from Cudahy, Franklin and other cities that lack places to skate.

Phil Kaye, an inline skater, said after-school is the most crowded time to visit the skate grounds.

"The hottest part of the day is not ideal," Kaye added.

Skateboarders Sagein McKenna and Nick, who declined to give his last name, said patrons of all ages — 5 years old to 40 years old — can be found scootering, biking and skating.

"It's like we're all a big family," said Nick, of Cudahy. "You learn stuff from the older kids and teach kids new stuff."

The Oak Creek Recreation Department had planned to host a BMX and skateboarding competition at the skate park Saturday, July 26, but canceled the event due to a lack of registrants. Department officials said the event needed more lead time to get interest sooner. The event would have hosted 10- to 16-year-olds and ages 17 and up. Each skater would get a 90-second run on the skate park to show their best trick. Kaplan was slated to be a judge.

According to Mary Jane Trate, recreation program manager, the competition will be hosted again next year and is intended to become an annual event.

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