COLUMBIA — In the late 1990s, Columbia passed an ordinance that made skating on any public street or sidewalk illegal.
Advocating for skaters' rights, a group of adults and youth petitioned the city for a skate park.
“They basically said (to the Columbia City Council) we've got a sport, we enjoy it, and you now have told us we can't skate in the downtown, but you have no parks where we can skate,” Columbia Parks and Recreation Superintendent Steve Saitta said.
Funding for the $64,000 park was tight. The city provided $35,000 for the park's construction at the Cosmopolitan Recreation Area. The Columbia Cosmopolitan Luncheon Club donated an additional $25,000, and Columbia Parks and Recreation donated labor.
“(Our park) cost a little over $60,000 ... Building it with our own park's labor saved a tremendous amount of money,” Saitta said. Kansas City constructed a skate park of similar size, which cost around $300,000.
A key to the park's success was incorporating design suggestions from local skaters who were on-site with concrete workers during construction. “We could make changes at will, and we didn't have to make change orders and do contracts (with private construction firms),” Saitta said.
The park has since attracted substantial interest, including a visit by Tony Hawk in 2009 and tours by government officials from other states and countries who want to replicate Columbia's accomplishment.
But the park's construction is not finished.
Jim Mars, who skates at the park frequently, said the park still needs lights. The electrical infrastructure is there, it's just a matter of finding money to purchase equipment, he said.
Mars and other advocates for the Columbia skating community also hope the city will build “skate gardens,” or mini skate parks across Columbia for children who cannot easily access the Cosmopolitan skate park.