For the week of July 8 thru July 14, 1998  

The skinny on the skate park

Ketchum’s hot spot this summer is the coolest

Express Staff Writer

ju8park8.gif (7722 bytes)Billy Cook does a backslide at the skate park, Friday.

Fourth of July visitors who’d been away from town for a few years might have been startled at everything happening around the twist of concretse ramps at Ketchum Skate Park.

Under Friday afternoon’s hot, bright sky, a swarm of grubby, pint-sized "skate rats" rolled up, down and over the cement "bowl" and "quarter-pipes" that sprawl like a giant soup ladle against the edge of Ketchum’s Warm Springs Road parking lot.

Last time those long-time-gone tourists looked, the parking lot where many wait to catch the KART bus downtown or to Sun Valley’s Challenger ski lift might have been, well, just a parking lot.

"Three years ago it was just gravel," said Andy Gilbert, the 28-year-old behind the project.

Nagging Ketchum Mayor Guy Coles is what first got the ball rolling, he said.

"I was working with his son, and I’d always complain to the mayor about ‘when are you going to build us a skate park?’" Gilbert said.

Then, skaters had to poach from the roller hockey players’ asphalt across the street in the Park and Ride.

"We’d build crappy ramps and stuff...and fight with the roller hockey guys a lot," Gilbert said in good humor. "We really needed our own space."

Mayor Coles wasn’t only hearing squawks from Gilbert. Local architect Dave Barovetto had shown interest, as well.

Together, Barovetto and Gilbert hammered out the first plans for the park.

"We were limited because nothing could be in the middle of the parking lot part that wasn’t movable," Gilbert said of the area heavily used during ski season.

Now, the whole skate park affair is in full swing with kids—mostly teen-age boys—doing "kick-flips" over rails, "grinding" on low, flat manual pads, and "dropping in" the wood half-pipe.

Gilbert, who’s been skating for 14 years, couldn’t be happier about how everything turned out.

"The kids are getting better every year. There’s a lot of new lines being discovered. This is by far the best summer yet," he said.

Local kids raised the $30,000 needed to build the ramps--under Gilbert’s watch--and still pound the pavement looking for cash.

"We take donations through the Blaine County Rec District," Gilbert said.

They take care of the place, too.

"The kids down there are awesome. If there’s garbage and stuff lying around, they’ll usually pick it up," Gilbert said. "And there’s no graffiti. It’s unbelievable."

Another thing Gilbert thinks is cool is that everyone gets along.

At skate parks in his native Portland, tension between skaters, inline skaters and BMX bikers was the norm.

"You’d see, like, skate boards being thrown at bikers," Gilbert said. "There’s nothing like that here. No one’s getting in anyone else’s way."

The park devours the summer vacation hours of those who could come from as close as down the street or as far away as any other Sun Valley visitor might.

Even a parent or two will venture onto the kids’ turf to see a new trick or hold a first-time skater’s unsteady hands.

The sunny Friday afternoon last week, "the park went nuts," as Gilbert put it.

Kids howled and hollered while watching each other both land physics-defying flights and crash hard onto black asphalt after a simple move.

Even a young skater from Salt Lake City, who held his skinned, shaking hand out to a friend to show bloody knuckles and cuticles, was into the scene.

"I just need a Band-Aid," he said, a smile spreading over his teary, sweating face. "I gotta get this covered so I can come out again later today."


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