Skate park designer selected

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Alex Aho, organizer of the effort to build a skate park in Houghton, talks during Houghton City Council meeting Wednesday. The council hired Spohn Ranch Skateparks of Los Angeles for the design and construction of the park, which is projected to be open by Bridgefest weekend.

HOUGHTON — A California firm specializing in skate parks was selected by the City Council Wednesday to design the city’s skate park.

The council awarded the contract to Spohn Ranch Skateparks of Los Angeles. The company would come to Houghton in the spring to build the park, located at the East Houghton Waterfront Park.

The national skate park firm did the design for the volunteer-built park in Marquette.

The city received six proposals for the construction in August. After reviewing the proposals, Waara met with the skate park group to decide on the proposals. Both had the same top two, Waara said.

“That was based on, ‘Did they understand what we were asking for? Are they going to spend their money on concrete or design? … Did they take the time to look at our weather and different things like that?'” Waara said.

After talking with skate park organizer Alex Aho, they decided on Spohn Ranch.

Waara said the city did soil borings at the site and provided the data to the companies. Some of the companies, including Spohn, had talked with local engineers, he said.

Spohn will come up for a public hearing to go through a design charrette — a forum in which skaters, BMX riders and other members of the public give input on what they want to see.

Spohn will then create a design based on the feedback, which the city will review.

“The skaters are the ones that are really going to look at this,” Waara said. “We know how much money we have to spend, that’s pretty much it. If the skating community is happy with that design, then we’ll say ‘OK, we’re good with this, go forth and build this.'”

The company plans to begin construction in May to open it by Bridgefest weekend in June.

Waara said the city would do some site work, including rerouting the waterfront trail and fixing the parking lot entrance.

Aho said he preferred a location at Kestner Waterfront Park, which the council passed over in favor of the East Houghton location.

“It’s a downtown location, it’s easily accessible,” he said. “Parents can drop their kids off during the day, kids can stay down there, go to Jimmy John’s get something to eat.”

Mayor Pro Tem Robert Megowen said the park will be an excellent development.

“I’ve walked it many times, and I think we’re doing the right thing right there,” he said. “That’s broadening our horizon that way, like a new beginning.”