We’re all proud of Corvallis’ thriving downtown. There are lots of eclectic and trendy shops, fancy restaurants, breweries, and even cool fountain for the kids to play in. Plus lots of green spaces along the waterfront and a fenced-in dog park for the kids with four legs. And, there’s a skate park. I’m no expert on ollies, half-pipes, bowls, or funboxes, but even I can tell that Eric Scott McKinley Skate Park is, for lack of a better term, humble.
Doug Glavich, however, is somewhat of a skate park expert. He’s a founding member of the Benton County Skateboarding Alliance (BCSA). He also skates at McKinley.
“It functions pretty well as a skate park, but it’s kind of beginner, maybe intermediate level. There are some really good local skaters. But after a while they outgrow it and become unchallenged. It’s certainly better than not having one. But if the opportunity’s there to put in a better park that will challenge kids, we’d love to do it.”
Lots of other cities up and down the Willamette Valley have skate parks. Most of them were built more recently than McKinley, which was constructed in 2000. Skate park construction companies have improved considerably over the last 14 years. Eugene has several modern skate parks, and smaller towns like Donald, Toledo, Harrisburg, and Philomath also have them as well. In most cases, designated skate parks improve neighborhoods by giving young people something constructive, active, and social to do with their spare time.
Glavich helped form the BCSA in 2007 to improve McKinley and eventually build other parks around Benton County. Their original vision utilized a two-phased approach to improving the park. First, they planned to construct a big, pro-style bowl. Second, they wanted to fix or improve the existing skate park through the addition of new skate terrain and signage. New picnic areas and BBQs were also envisioned to help beautify the surrounding area. Big picture, it would help make the southern tip of downtown Corvallis better.
“We feel like it would be a better environment in general if we could get a family presence. Places where parents could hang out. We’d like to just clean it up and make it a family environment. It would make a difference in how kids behaved, too,” Glavich said.
The non-profit organization found out quickly that it would take a lot more than just fundraising to make their vision a reality. Since their plan included changes to land owned by the City of Corvallis, they started by meeting with the Parks, Natural Areas, & Recreation Board (PNARB). This board acts as a representative of the City where parks and green spaces are involved. A presentation of the skate park vision impressed the members of PNARB. They recognized the potential of an expanded skate park to beautify the section of downtown located under the Highway 34 overpass. With the blessing of PNARB, Glavich moved on to the drafting of a Capital Improvement Project proposal. Any major project has to go through the CIP. That required more presentations and the approval of a CIP council. Somewhere in there, they had to become 501(c)(3). That’s a fancy way of saying they legally became a charity. All of those things required funding, by the way.
The BCSA faced a minor setback when several of the original board members graduated from OSU and moved out of Corvallis. Glavich and fellow board member Vaughn Balzer were left to run the charity alone. Their careers came first, and progress was slowed for a time. But now there’s a new board, and the BCSA is going full steam.
Glavich has not forgotten the original bold vision, but the BCSA has tempered its expectations over time.
“Now what we really want to do is approach this in one phase,” he said. “We want to improve the existing park. We’d still like to add a bowl like the one we designed. We’d like to improve the existing footprint. It might just be by adding different terrain, like transition walls and pump bumps. We’re talking to local skaters for ideas.”
Having already been though the challenge of becoming a charity, the BCSA is now in a position to potentially help others.
“With 501(c)(3) status, our organization could help other towns in Benton County get parks built,” Glavich said. “You never know when somebody might come up and say, ‘We want to build a park in Philomath.’ And someone has a big chunk of money to donate to a 501(c)(3). We can do it. We can navigate that process.”
BCSA never stops fundraising. Art and music shows, skate contests, and benefit concerts have helped pay the fees on civic hoops and hurdles as well as helped build up a decent skate park fund.
Corvallis’ skate park does have a couple of smaller improvements in its near future. New signage for the park will help improve the look and feel of McKinley. A concrete bench is also coming soon. This will be a solid concrete bench, which will act as another piece of skateable terrain. The bench will be dedicated to the memory of Tommy McGuigan. McGuigan was one of the first to test out McKinley, and had a reputation as being helpful and patient with novice skaters.