By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Saturday, Sept. 9, is a day that Robert Johnson will remember for a while.

After overseeing a huge group of volunteers removing wood chips from the Big Toy, the Keizer parks supervisor was on his way home driving past Carlson Skate Park when something unexpected happened.

“I saw this head pop up over the ramps when someone did a trick off the center diamond. It was the first time I’ve seen the kids doing tricks like that in years,” Johnson eagerly told city councilors and parks board members during a tour of parks Monday, Sept. 11.

Johnson stopped his car and pulled into the parking lot to watch the kids and adults make use of the newly-rehabbed facility. Within a few minutes he was outside his car taking with people using the park for the first time in a while.

“This park had become a scooter park because the scooters are the only ones with wheels that could ride over the surface easily. Any skaters that used the park had to go out and buy wider, more expensive wheels to be able to ride well,” Johnson said.

In August, the city council approved a contract to rehabilitate portions of the skate park by grinding down some of the most used sections of the pitted concrete and making it safer for riders of all types. A side benefit of the makeover was reducing friction allowing skaters and riders to do bigger and better tricks. As the group of civic leader arrived at the park dusk was nearing, but about 40 bikes, skateboards and scooters were carving lines around the refreshed areas of the park.

“The thing is I don’t want to stop here,” Johnson told the group.

The cost to do the grinding work was about $35,000 and the number of visitors had already increased exponentially in the three days since it was completed. However, the job is only partially done. Most of the grinding work targeted the areas and ramps most frequently used, but there are rough patches all around the park and two bowls and a handful of ramps that go largely unused because of poor design or deterioration.

Johnson said bids to remodel the park completely top $600,000, but the increased use after just the initial work has him rethinking the path forward.

“A lot of the park that is still usable with more grinding work, and I think we can work on redesigning sections of it like the bowls and ramps while using what is already here as a foundation. I think it will be cheaper than $600,000, but I don’t know by how much,” Johnson said.