Creating fun out of concrete

Evergreen putting its mark on CB’s new skatepark

By Mark Reaman

It shouldn’t be long before the sound of cement trucks in the southwest side of Crested Butte is replaced with the sound of skateboard wheels and decks hitting fresh ledges and flowy bowls.

All summer, the area directly next to the Big Mine Ice Arena has been undergoing a huge transformation. Most of the original Crested Butte Big Mine skatepark was demolished in late May and early June, and mounds of dirt sprouted in its place giving clues of what was to come. Those mounds are now turning into super smooth bowls, bumps and ledges of concrete as a new 16,000 square foot skatepark takes shape. The majority of the physical work should be done by the middle of August.

“The old park was one of the first skateparks anywhere that was built by skateboarders. It is legendary and we are doing it again,” said Billy Coulon, park designer and owner (along with his wife Catherine) of Evergreen Skateparks. 

Billy and Catherine met in Gunnison and one of their first dates was actually at the CB skatepark. “I’m connected to this place. Crested Butte was one of the first parks I skated in the ‘90s. At the time there weren’t that many concrete parks,” said Billy on a hot sunny morning as his crew worked like they do most mornings, busily and efficiently prepping for more concrete to be poured.

Evergreen has built skateparks all over the country and the world, including one of the largest skateparks in Israel. Billy said this Crested Butte job is the company’s 90th park project and at 16,000 square feet is on the larger side; most of their projects come in at about 10,000 square feet. The previous CB skatepark was 9,500 square feet. 

There are about 12 crew members working consistently on the CB job. It is rare to see a crewmember just standing around. There is shoveling, forming, heavy machinery moving and compacting dirt, all taking place when anyone is on the site. With the core crew of about dozen, more come in when the concrete is poured. And there is no shortage of concrete. When it is finished, there will be more than 400 yards of concrete on the ground.

Things can get a little hectic when each of the concrete trucks shows up at the site. “It’s war out here when concrete is being poured,” said Coulon. “There’s lots of yelling because there is so much to do in such a short time. The stress is highest doing the concrete. That’s when we all wonder why we do it and we feel over it. But then it falls into place, and we get to ride it, and it is a good reset for everyone.”

Crested Butte Parks, Recreation, Open Space and Trails (PROST) director Janna Hansen said local concrete contractors have mentioned to her how impressed they are with the quality of the concrete work at the new park. And it is smooth and flowy.

Coulon said the new park will offer things for every type of skater. “We design parks to accommodate beginners and experts,” explained Coulon. “No one, even the experts, wants a completely expert park.”

“There is something for everyone,” agreed Hansen. “We have a great group of local skaters on our project committee, and everyone is super excited. The park has a really good progression for riders of all abilities.”

“Skating takes different skill levels for different things,” said Coulon. “There are so many ways to ride a skateboard, so it is designed to accommodate that. We make parks that are applicable to everyone. I get excited when I see new skaters riding one of our parks. This park will make it easy for kids and adults to learn and improve their skills no matter what level they are at. 

“The park helps make skating fun and exciting right away,” continued Coulon. “It makes people better. It makes it fun for people to ride. It’s not just about tricks, it’s about the riding experience. A good park is easier to learn at than on a sidewalk that has cracks and stones.”

Coulon said there was a period when skateboarding “went down a rabbit hole” where everything was about rails and tricks. But as the sport evolved it brought back the vibe of just riding. “The design is not completely foreign to the outside world now,” he said. “It is smooth and makes it easy to feel the fun of the ride.”

Coulon and his crew have learned things from each park they build and others they have ridden. They spend a lot of time visiting other skateparks to see what works and what doesn’t, and they include the best elements into every new park. “We have figured out how to make it easier to ride,” he said. “We think about things like visibility and not creating bottlenecks. I study parks when I visit them to skate. I see where the tracks are and figure out how to improve things.”

Hansen said the size and design of the new CB park should help alleviate conflicts with skaters, scooters and bikers.

Crank’s Tank was retained as a part of the new park. Coulon said it is probably deeper and steeper than most typical skatepark bowls but there are crazier ones in other parks. Still, it was an early model for skateparks back in the day.

Coulon said he and the crew typically leave on weekends at the start of a project to get in some skating at nearby parks. But as the transformation of a new park becomes real the crew tends to hang out. “We get to try the park first. As we do more work it gets bigger and there is no reason to leave. We get the first rides and riding a new park like this one in Crested Butte makes it all worth it.”

Aside from the town, the new park was made possible in part through grant funding from the MetRec district and community support through fundraising efforts by the Gunnison Valley Skateboard Alliance. 

Construction should be completed by the middle of this month. Hansen said the hope is to open the new park to skaters in August while they complete finishing touches of the communal gathering space and art installation. She said the town is expecting to offer a fall skate session once school starts for the local kids. A formal dedication will be held in September.

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