A small group's desire for a new skate park once again took center stage as city officials look to the drafting of a new 5-year improvement plan for the parks department.
Flanked by three other avid skaters, Thomas Tucker, the owner of Homebase Skate Supply, 24 N. Fourth St. and a vocal advocate of the construction of a new skate park at Lester Square Park, sat attentive and optimistic in the second row at City Hall as Steve Beaman, superintendent of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, prepared to take comments from the few who decided to attend the public forum.
It’s been more than three years since Tucker first made his concerns about the current skate park’s condition known to city officials — but he’s not about to give up, he said.
“I’ve lived here pretty much my whole life, so I understand things take time,” the Vincennes native said. “I’ve had opportunities to go other places, but for some reason, I stick here.
“We just have to get more people behind (a new skate park),” Tucker said with a confident nod of his head. “But I know if I give up, the whole project will roll over and die.”
Tucker three years ago started a signature campaign to gain the attention of local elected officials. He was even named the Sun-Commercial's Newsmaker of the Year in 2017 for the attention he garnered as a result.
Beaman teamed up with Tucker and together they began researching skate park design companies, even reaching out to one of the best in California.
Eventually, they decided to ask city council members for help in hiring a design company in Bloomington, Hunger Skate Park, to take a look at Lester Square Park and come up with ways to improve it.
In September of 2017, Hunger presented two modern, plaza-type design plans to the public, one to be built on the existing slab that would cost an estimated $225,000, and the other with two expansions totaling an additional 4,000-square feet of skating space.
Both were met with rave reviews, and city council members seemed open to the possibility. Since then, however, plans have stagnated.
Beaman is still a vocal proponent of building a new skate park; he’s even named it as one of the top priorities for the next 5-year plan.
And locals seem to agree.
He’s currently conducting an online survey to gather public feedback on what's wanted in the parks system; Beaman says he's received nearly 500 completed surveys so far.
And there is an “overwhelming” number of people, he said, who support the construction of a new skate park.
Tucker and several local skaters have pointed to a possible grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation. It would favor communities like Vincennes, they say, with a successful skate shop, a healthy group of avid skaters. They only need to find 30% of the anticipated cost, or about $70,000.
Beaman commended Tucker’s patience and persistence and said completing the project “is still in our vision.”
“It’s just a matter of finding the funding we need,” Beaman said. “I think that it will happen.”
And Tucker agrees — it’s why he's remained so devoted despite all the setbacks and silence.
“The four of us who showed up tonight, that’s better than none of us showing up,” he said of himself and fellow skaters — the only people in attendance who weren’t somehow affiliated with the city.
“We’ve just got to make this happen. Vincennes truly needs it. And I know, with time, it will happen.”
The survey is posted on the city website at Vincennes.org and the Park & Recreations' Facebook page at Vincennes Parks and Recreation. It will be available online until Dec. 13.