Teen park officially opens with ceremony

Greg Mast
Ryan Henningsen, Edward D. Jones financial advisor, cuts the ribbon Monday to officially open the Goppert Teen Park. The Henningsen family made a donation toward the basketball courts adjacent to the skate park. The first two phases of the park are complete and organizers said $75,000 is needed to finish the third phase.

The Goppert Teen Park is officially open.

City of Ottawa officials christened the new park, 202 W. 15th St., Ottawa, which is south of Kanza Park, Monday afternoon, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Wynndee Lee, director of community development for the City of Ottawa, said getting the park open in 2017 was a goal.

“It is great to see teens enjoying it,” Lee said. “We are really thrilled. Great partnerships in the community makes this happen.”

Fonda Rose, Ottawa Play Taskforce chairman, said seeing the first two phases completed and teens using park was emotional.

“It is very humbling,” she said. “It was so fun to see kids in the park. I drove by [Sunday] and there were probably 40 or 50 kids out here. It is already drawing kids. As soon as we did the ribbon-cutting, you see them walking up through the grass from school.”

Lee said this was part of a dream of the Ottawa Play Taskforce a few years ago.

“That group of people started dreaming,” Lee said. “We hope this is something the teens appreciate forever.”

The first two phases included a skate park and four basketball courts. The skate ramps were moved from the old skate park on West Third Street to the new teen park last week.

“This is a park for the teenagers of the City of Ottawa,” Sara Caylor, Ottawa mayor, said before the ribbon-cutting. “This park is not done. We will have more things coming along.”

Lee said the community support through the fundraising efforts has been tremendous.

“The fundraising kicked up when we got the [anonymous] $100,000 gift,” Lee said. “We got into pricing out some of the features. The costs did exceed what we originally thought. We are still going to have to raise for that third phase. We have money for the Zipline. We have benches we got a grant for. The agility course — which is the next big feature — that is the one that will take more fundraising.”

Rose said they need to raise $75,000 to complete the third phase, which includes an American Ninja Warriors type agility course, graffiti walls, ziplines and maybe more. The organizers are hopeful to complete the park in 2018.

“Hopefully when people see how much it is used and what it is doing for the teens, we can get more donations,” Rose said.

Lee said building a park specifically for teens accomplishes different things. She said teens are inside too much, don’t get enough exercise or have enough to do.

“This achieves all three,” she said.

Kyle Catlin, 23, said the teen park is something to be proud of and gives teens a place to meet. Catlin said the leader of the petition drive, Sam Hughes, that led to the building of the original skate park on West Third Street, came to the teen park on Sunday.

He said Hughes was an inspiration to him and others from his generation.

“They inspired me to keep skating,” he said. “Before the skate park was there, they would skateboard all over town. It gave skateboarding a bad image.”

Catlin said Hughes delivered a message to the younger skateboard enthusiasts: “The last thing he said before he left was ‘Hey, man, make sure you take care of this place and keep it clean,’” Catlin said. “He had that same mentality when he was a teenager. That was him. They were not going to let anything happen to the park. People who love skateboarding, riding bikes, rollerblading, people that ride scooters, they are the people that are going to keep this place floating.”

Catlin said in just the few days the park has been open, he has seen people there that did not come to the skate park.

“We have to get the younger kids to enjoy it while they can,” he said. “They will pass it on to the next generation and keep it going. We are always trying to usher in the next [generation]. We are going to get older.”

He said having the basketball courts next to the skate ramps is pretty neat.

“Maybe some of us will start playing basketball and we will get some of them to pick up skateboarding or biking, co-exist a little bit,” Catlin said. “You see a lot of different people when you are at a skate park.”