A Skate in the Park [video by Rod J. Eckrich]


Skateboarders in Munster take on Town Hall and win

As a kid, I was a huge skateboarding poseur. My interest in the sport was genuine, but I totally faked the funk when it came to my abilities. I didn't even have a real skateboard for cool tricks. Instead, I had a Mad Magazine skateboard that got run over by the family vehicle on a Sunday morning because my brother left it in the driveway.

In reality, skateboarding takes more than being proficient at Nintendo's Skate or Die and hanging a picture of a skater in midair on a bedroom wall.

Over the years, I would watch skaters do tricks in driveways with wooden ramps and in parking lots. Now, when I ride my bike around Munster, I’ll often stop for a few moments at the skate park in Community Park to catch the latest moves.

The skate park in Munster certainly offers enough for the local skater to practice his or her skills or just have something to do. It sports various sizes of ramps, funboxes, rails and quarter pipes.

It was unveiled in June 2002, but you have to go back a few more years to get the full story of how it came to be.

It's a classic story of fighting for what you believe in.

During my high school stint in the mid- to late 1990s, a group of skaters was prominent in the area. This bunch could be seen with their boards virtually everywhere. Skateboarding at the time wasn't as big as it is now, so they commanded about as much positive attention as someone with dyed hair or a facial piercing.

These locals struggled to make their plight known and gain respect. Those who were most instrumental in getting the skate park started were Shawn Johnson, Adam Orlandi and Luke Reubelt. Johnson's backyard offered many of the skaters a place to skate since they faced restrictions everywhere else. But the reality is a skating community cannot constantly occupy someone's backyard.

Police citations at $150 a pop were hefty.

"We pretty much just got sick of going to jail in every town in the area just for skating, so we decided to petition for a skate park,” Orlandi said.

Petitioning doesn't mean that you're going to get what you request or feel is important to the town. More people than you might expect come to Town Hall with wants and needs. At the same time Orlandi and Reubelt petitioned for the park, people were trying to get the outdoor pool built. Orlandi and Reubelt figured the town would build the pool and the idea for a skate park would get swept under the rug.

The skaters felt that if they got enough people to sign a petition, the town would at least consider the merits of a skate park. With students, parents, teachers and even cops backing them up, they collected 377 signatures. Keep in mind: This was back in the days before Facebook and the advantages of online social networking.

Petitioning the Park Board at town meetings was an important step in voicing their need. But it took serious resolve.

"It just felt like we went to so many town meetings trying to push that park,” Orlandi said.

Imagine being a teen and not wanting to go to school, let alone town meetings. These boys were dedicated enough to sit through what must have been an extremely boring succession of public gatherings.

Their campaigning worked out in the long run, although the actual planning was out of their hands.

"As far as the actual development and building of it, (town officials) were in complete control of it,” Reubelt said. “They built what they saw fit, never asked us or fellow skate kids what they would like to see within its construction."

Orlandi is a little more forgiving.

"I can understand why we weren't involved in the design because we were all graduated and gone from Munster when it was actually built," he said.

Today kids from all over the area use the park, although Reubelt has mixed feelings about the current crop of skaters who populate the park.

"You can tell some kids are all about it, and then you have the ones that disrespect the place, but when you see that little kid who's all about using it as a training ground, that’s pretty sweet to see."

Vandalism and littering over the years have threatened to force a shutdown of the park, but fortunately it endures.

The skaters who pioneered the notion can take pride in their efforts paying off. Right now there may be tons of skate parks in the world, but until a decade ago there wasn't a single one anywhere near The Region.

Orlandi has a minor quibble, though.

"I really like the park that got built,” Orlandi said. “It has good variations of everything big and small. I just wish they had put in a mini ramp. It's the only thing missing."