State College Action Sports Park Could Finally Become a Reality This Year
A long-discussed public action sports park in State College may at last come to fruition in 2022.
Gordon Kauffman, a volunteer member of the committee working to make the park a reality, told State College Borough Council on Monday that the “aggressive timeline” aims to complete fundraising, final plans and permitting in the coming months, with construction starting in that late summer.
If everything goes according to plan, the park would open at the end of the year.
To be located in High Point Park off of West Whitehall Road, the project will include amenities for skateboards, BMX bikes and scooters.
Tussey Mountain has been home to a skate park for skateboards, bikes and scooters since 2001, but community members have long sought a more easily accessible, and free-to-use, action sports park in the immediate State College area.
“There isn’t an action sports park or a skatepark here in State College and demand is very high for it,” Kauffman said.
The committee presented the current, tentative design for the park during a public input session on Jan. 27.
Jake Johnson, a professional skateboarder and State College native who opened IQ Skateshop on South Pugh Street last year, and his father, Tim, a professor emeritus of landscape architecture at Penn State, developed the concept for the current design, drawing on features from locations Jake has skated at across the United States and around the world.
New Line Skateparks was contracted last fall to bring that conceptual design to a final design and lead construction, with longtime pro skateboarder and lead designer Kanten Russell working as project manager. New Line has developed more than 350 municipal skate park projects over the last 20 years.
Current plans for the 20,000-square-foot project feature ledges, stairs, rails, banks, a mini-ramp area, a brick volcano, quarterpipe, planting areas with boulders for seating spots and a center courtyard with a large granite pad.
Part of the design is a plaza setting, inspired by locales like Pulaski Park in Washington, D.C., while the lower elevation is designed to be a higher speed area “so that people who want to go a little bit faster and do bigger airs can come and ride down here,” Russell said in January.
“I think this will be very popular with the bikers so that they can really have more room and bigger transitions to do their tricks down here, really pump and get some speed,” he added.
The brick and granite design is meant to fit in with State College’s aesthetic.
“We really tried to make this feel and look like it belongs in State College,” Russell said. “We definitely took inspiration from the downtown area, the living areas, the college itself.”
State College Mayor Ezra Nanes noted during Monday’s council meeting that the skatepark facility still leaves plenty of green space within High Point Park.
“The skatepark does not take up the full footprint of High Point Park,” Nanes said. “It’s in one small section. There’s a whole lot of green space all around it as well. The park is still very much a park. This is just a component of the park, which is great.”
Kaufman said the committee is excited about High Point Park because it is an existing but currently underutilized park not far from State College Area High School, is located on a CATA bus route and has parking off of West Whitehall Road.
The shared-use path system in the borough currently connects to Blue Course Drive, not far from the park. The borough is separately looking to secure a state grant to, in part, connect the Orchard Park greenway along Blue Course Drive to Whitehall Road.
It’s been a long road to the development of the action sports park since it was first proposed in 2013 to the Centre Region Council of Government Parks Capital Committee by BMX legend and local resident Jamie Bestwick. Borough staff began looking into the project the following year and it has been a part of capital improvement plans ever since.
In 2017, Orchard Park was proposed as a potential location, but that was met with opposition by residents of the Greentree neighborhood. An ad hoc committee was then formed and proposed several locations, including the planned Whitehall Road Regional Park.
It would, however, likely be years, if at all, before an action sports component could be included in the multi-phase construction of Whitehall Road Regional Park. A subcommittee of the original ad hoc committee regrouped and ultimately identified High Point Park as the preferred location.
Nearby residents did not oppose the proposal for High Point Park, which is owned by the borough and maintained by Centre Region Parks and Recreation.
Before shovels hit the ground, though, there’s more work to be done. The total project cost is about $1.3 million. The Pennsylvania Department of Economic and Community Development and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources have approved two grants totaling $500,000. The borough allocated $200,000 in its capital budget and the project has received about $100,000 in in-kind donations and services.
That leaves $500,000 to be raised through private-sector fundraising and/or additional grants.
Kauffman said the committee has only just begun the private fundraising campaign in the past few weeks and has about $20,000 in commitments so far. By April they hope to have a good sense of how much will be available in order to finalize the park plans.
“I’m confident that this community is going to come together,” Kauffman said. “It’s got a history of philanthropy and I believe we’ve got the resources here to make this happen.”
He added that the initial focus has been on securing larger donations, but that the campaign will include opportunities for smaller contributions.
“We feel like if we can get a few big gifts under our belt it will help build momentum for the project,” he said. “It’s very important that ultimately there’s buy-in from the entire community and [smaller donations are] a great way to do that.”
Work toward the park has been a collaborative effort “to provide local youth a safe and secure place to practice their independent sport disciplines and socialize with peers.” The borough, which in addition to funding has provided regular staff support and the location, state, Centre Region Parks and Rec, local youth and families, volunteers and local businesses are all a part of the process.
“This is going to take a village, so there are a lot of stakeholders involved,” he said. “It’s really a function of the continued efforts and the passion by community members to make this dream a reality.”