Blending Boards

Galena, Ill., broke new ground, both literally and figuratively, earlier this fall. What began as a now-usual request from local kids for a skatepark, coupled with the need to get the skateboards off the downtown buildings and sidings, became part of the renovation of ten-acre Recreation Park.

In addition to the overt demand for a skatepark, the city saw great value in a mixed-use, multi-generational park that would subtly bring people of various ages together.

Galena's Recreation Park features an 18,000 square foot powder-coated steel above-ground skatepark built by American Ramp Company, a 130' x 160' playground, seven new pavilions, horseshoe pits, shuffleboard, new backstops at the baseball fields, new restrooms, sand volleyball courts and a five-foot wide concrete walking path linking every component of the park.

"We purposely designed the senior section of Recreation Park -- with its bocce ball, croquet, shuffleboard and horseshoes -- so that it's next to the skatepark," says Craig Albaugh, Galena's grant administrator, who oversaw the park renovations for the city.

"We're trying to get the kids and the older people to intermingle. We feel that they'll learn to respect each other. The younger kids will learn that the older people aren't who they think they are, and the older people will see that the kids are nice kids, because they are nice kids. In fact, some of the older people suggested it."

Basically built as a loop, Recreation Park is designed to easily circulate people to the various amenities, rather than segregating the activities.

Design & Develop

The renovation of Recreation Park was a $1.59 million project. About $400,000 came from Illinois' Open Space Land Acquisition Act and $20,000 from fund-raising. The rest came out of the city's budget.

"Often you have to just bite the bullet and do it. I've worked for the city since '99, but I've been a township supervisor for 20 years, and I've see things done half way. But if you go all out, you get a better product and it lasts longer. When people see it done right they appreciate it more and use it," says Albaugh.

Additionally, the park helps the tourist trade. Nestled near the borders of Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin, Galena is already a favorite getaway location thanks to its historic charm and small-town atmosphere.

At the skatepark's grand opening on Sept. 20, this town of 3,600 saw about 600 event goers, many of whom came from points beyond Galena. Albaugh relates that a mom from a nearby town said, "When Galena does it, they do it right."

It's this kind of positive word-of-mouth, along with further attractions that will help the town's trade, says Albaugh. Galena is also re-doing its pool and bathhouse this winter, including the installation of a new slide and kids' area.

Albaugh says that the city decided to forgo a traditional bid process so that vendors would design around the city's specific budget and criteria for the skatepark and playground.

As Albaugh explains it, "We said, 'We want this; you design around it.' I think we got a lot more for our money than we would have gotten the other way."

"We had the companies give us a proposal based on what we told them. We went back to each of them and told them what we liked and didn't like, had a second round and eliminated from there," adds Albaugh.

"It's time-consuming because you have a meeting with the kids and parents, then you go through this process with the vendors. We even did a third round, because we came down to three companies on both the skatepark and the playground."

Initially, Galena planned to build a skatepark and a separate BMX park, but decided to combine them. Albaugh says that decision saved $20,000, and he has not noticed any problems between boards and bikes.

"The tension is created when you say that say Tuesdays and Thursdays are for bikes and the rest of the days are for skateboards. You're saying to the biker that they're not as important as the skaters," says Albaugh.

"It also depends on the size of your park; if you have a small park it can cause problems."

Two sets of bleachers, rubber coated trash receptacles and a water fountain ring the skatepark, which is fenced and locked at night, though not supervised. As part of the pool renovation, a concession area will be added between the skatepark and the pool.

Albaugh says the skatepark averages about 50 kids per day. He adds that the possibility of skate boarding's popularity declining in future years led the city to build an above-ground modular system.

"If skateboarding ever went by the wayside, we built it big enough so that we can put tennis courts or basketball courts on it and convert it. The cement won't go to waste," says Albaugh.

So far, Albaugh reports that neither maintenance nor graffiti has been a problem at the park. Go to and click on Forms to view Galena's maintenance checklists for Recreation Park's various amenities.

"If we can get enough skateparks around the country we'll help alleviate the nuisance skating. It's frustrating to watch the kids on TV using stairs, walls and public property for skating. They don't understand the cost to the community to repair the damage. So if I can get kids out to the skatepark I'm going to save money in the long run because I don't have to repair benches, sidewalks and walls," says Albaugh.

"We spent $10 million re-doing our downtown, and right after we got one section done, some kids skateboarded on this new limestone wall, so we had to clean it off and re-do it. Now they're all at the skatepark because they like to be together. It should be cooperative between you and the kids."