Podcast: Guest Joe McGowan on the proposed skate plaza

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Joe McGowan, Northfield High School senior and Union of Youth youth board member, appeared on our show today, talking about the proposed skate plaza that the Skatepark Coalition is working to bring to Northfield. (The Skatepark Coalition includes the Northfield Healthy Community Initiative (HCI), the Northfield Union of Youth (The Key), the Mayor’s Youth Council, and the Youth Plus Action Team.)

Joe wore the red Skatepark Coalition’s fund-raising t-shirt to the recording session, so afterwards, I followed him to the Key to get one of my own ($10 donation; see the Union of Youth donation page). I showed Joe how I could do an ollie and then followed that up with a kickflip, heelflip and pop-shove it.

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Later, I snapped a photo of the blacktop where the old skatepark used to be in Riverside Park, and then I took two photos of the open space next to the new swimming pool on 7th, one of the sites being considered for the skate plaza’s location.

Click play to listen. 30 minutes.

Our show, Locally Grown, airs on Tuesdays at 4:30 PM, KRLX, 88.1 FM. You can also subscribe to the podcast feed, or subscribe with iTunes. We seek your comments and suggestions. Attach a comment to this blog post or use the Contact Us page to send us email. See the show archives for audio of other episodes.

38 thoughts on “Podcast: Guest Joe McGowan on the proposed skate plaza”

  1. Skateboarding in sandals?

    No Safety equipment? 😎

    Well, he does have that windblown hair going for him.

    And the shirt rocks. I’m getting mine, because I feel the youth of this town need it.

    I’m such an “old-timer”. My skateboard was one of those make out of plastic. It has been 25+ years since I have been on a board, and the issues with skateboards in town has not changed.

    SKATEBOARDING IS NOT A CRIME! Boarders just need a safe area in which to practice thier sport, just like ball players, or golfers, or swimmers.

    More power to them. I’ll be stopping down with my donation to pick up a shirt.

    Keep up the great work Joey!

    -J

  2. Hey Tyson and Gilly, wouldn’t that old dude look a little younger with a pony tail?

    BTW, that was a good podcast. Joe McGowen is a really good spokesperson.

  3. Oh man, I remember taking that picture… i think that’s the one where we photoshopped Graham’s head in from the other picture i took that night.

  4. As a high school student in Northfield, I’ve felt the full thrust of this skatepark. And I’ve been annoyed by it.

    This skatepark has been too aggresively advocated. Look at the shirt slogan for one example — “dream the inevitable”? Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I interpret that as something along the lines of “don’t bother fighting us; you’re wrong and you’ll lose.” If I — or any of my peers — suggests that they’re might be something flawed in the idea of a skatepark, we’re accused by fellow teens of hating youth. This is ridiculous and I think we’re just too afraid to think critically of this park. Here are my issues:

    Would this actually prevent people from skateboarding downtown? I don’t think people simply skateboard downtown now because it’s a good place to practice: they do it to get around and they’ll continue to even with a skatepark.
    What would this do the neighborhood in which it’s built? It will concentrate a lot of teens in one place and — stereotype or not — it’s bound to attract drugs and graffiti.
    How much will “youth ownership” benefit the park in the long term? Sure, for the first few years this is an appealing idea, but in 20 years will kids really care — would kids care now if a 1987 skateboarders were involved in the design of a park they no longer like?

    I really admire the effort people have put into this, but I don’t think we’re being open enough as a community about our concerns.

  5. Sean, I think you are reading too much into a t shirt. We all have dreams that we have to believe will come true, otherwise why bother? Some call it faith, not arrogance.

    I think that a skatepark actually will relieve the skateboarding downtown problem, if only because most of the kids I know are tired of being hassled. Of course there may be a renegade few, but let’s make decisions for the majority.

    The idea that teens and drugs and grafitti inevitably go together is an awful stereotype and I find it surprising that you, a teen, are even bringing that up. Even though skateboarders get a bad rap, I see them as being very active and for the most part healthy. They are not sitting glued to a videogame at home for hours and hours – they are out exercising.

    Again, there are exceptions, I’m sure. As this discussion continues, I keep thinking about how a very vocal adult minority got a dog park passed – on river front property, no less – in record time and they certainly “over advocated” for their cause because they were passionate about it. On a busy day, I see a dozen dogs and owners hanging out. I’m quite sure a dozen skateboarders would be hanging out at a skatepark on busy day.

    Finally, I disagree with your point that youth ownership may be detrimental. Any project that is ultimately successful has to have huge “buy in” and a sense of ownership by its’ constituents. Hopefully, the skatepark would encourage a culture of broad support that would help it evolve with the times, rather than letting it become obsolete in 5 – 10 – 20 years.

    Speaking as a local “mature” mom and a skatepark supporter, I appreciate the chance to voice my opinion on this forum.

  6. Mim,
    Thanks for your response.

    The drugs/graffiti thing: I’m really not saying all skateboarders do that sort of thing. But it only takes a few. Look at The Key — it’s developed, at least with people whom I talk with, a reputation of being a place for stoners. I’m sure that the majority of kids who participate in The Key are positive citizens and not regular drug users, but that minority has created a negative attitude around it. It’s not unreasonable to assume the same could happen with a skatepark. And of course graffiti is even more literal — only one or two people need to vandalize the park for it to start to come off slummy.

    They are not sitting glued to a videogame at home for hours and hours – they are out exercising.

    Good point, but they’re also out breaking bones: the health impacts of skateboarding can swing both ways. 😉

    “As this discussion continues, I keep thinking about how a very vocal adult minority got a dog park passed – on river front property, no less – in record time and they certainly ‘over advocated’ for their cause because they were passionate about it.”

    The dog park people pushed hard, but it doesn’t seem like there was the same “you’re either with us or you hate us” attitude that the skatepark supporters have presented.

    Finally, I disagree with your point that youth ownership may be detrimental.

    I didn’t mean to say that youth ownership was a bad thing, but rather only a temporary good. It will benefit the park; I’m just not sure how long that benefit will last.

    P.S.: T-shirt. Well, that may not have been the intention, but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

  7. “Look at The Key — it’s developed, at least with people whom I talk with, a reputation of being a place for stoners.”

    Sean, wake up! The stoner thing crosses ALL social lines in Northfield. It might be easy to judge kids who look a little different, but believe me, this problem is rampant in our town. In my day, you could pretty much tell who the stoners were. They were the burnouts. Nowadays, you can’t tell. It could be the best students and/or the best athletes OR the obvious looking burnouts. Just ask around. Many “regular” families are dealing with their kids involved with drugs and alochol. I know some of them. It is definitely NOT a “skateboarder” or “kids at the Key” issue.

    And even IF some skateboarders are “stoners,” that doesn’t preclude building a skatepark for the positive majority. It almost seems like you’re saying if we build a place for teens to congregate, it’s going to be a drug haven. On the contrary; the more safe and enjoyable places kids have to go, the less trouble there will be in “River City.” It’s when kids are bored and alienated that they get into trouble.

    That is basically why I’m a proponent of the skatepark. Kids, especially teens, in this town need more places to hang out. Period.

  8. It almost seems like you’re saying if we build a place for teens to congregate, it’s going to be a drug haven.

    Well, for argument’s sake, what if that’s true? As you said, teens in Northfield do do drugs. A lot. Wouldn’t mixed-age semi-supervised environments (like the city pool or the library) be less likely to become drug-associated?

  9. Well Sean, we already have a city pool and a library. Are you saying all skateboarders should spend their time at the library and pool and forget about getting a skatepark?

    And no, I don’t think a local skatepark is bound to be drug ridden. Thanks to my son and his friends, I have spent hundreds of hours over the past few years at skateparks in Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Owatonna, Mankato, Superior (WI), Apple Valley, Burnsville, Chanhassen, Winona, and even little ole Cloquet, MN. They are not drug havens. Lots of kids, boys and girls, of all ages are there. Parents are coming and going. Skateparks are out in the open where everyone can see. Most drug and alcohol parties in this town are in somebody’s back yard, or at an “undisclosed” location not privy to the police watch.

    I think you’ve revealed your true prejudice about skateboarders rather than your knowledge and concern about skateparks. I also think maybe you should spend some time at the Key, getting to know those stoners.

  10. Honestly, you’ve convinced me. But…

    “I think you’ve revealed your true prejudice about skateboarders rather than your knowledge and concern about skateparks.”

    If you wanted Exhibit A of how supporters of this skatepark are forcing, that would be it. I’m not in any position to actually stop this skatepark. Yet you’re holding me to an unreasonable standard — no I haven’t researched skateparks in extensive detail, but I never said I had. I’m glad other people like you have more experience with skateparks to share. But we didn’t question those who thought three million was too much for the city pool.

    I was just a citizen and a teen with concerns. Those concerns were mostly alieviated. But you won’t be finding me in a “dream the inevitable” T-shirt anytime soon.

  11. Honestly, Sean, you’re a good debater. And I think I’ve learned something about your concerns too. I think it’s unfortunate that you have run into some “do or die” attitude. Maybe they are responding defensively to your attitude. Or maybe you are absolutely correct; there are some prevailing bad attitudes out there.

    I am not exhibit A for “forcing” the park. But I do think you have revealed some prejudices in your statements and assumptions. Even if you are not an expert in the field, or especially if you are not an expert about skateparks, you could be a little more careful about your assumptions. I am just holding up a small mirror, if you will, not trying to force your hand.

    As far as the t-shirt goes, maybe you could think of a kinder, gentler slogan. You have a way with words, after all! 🙂

  12. i actually think if there is graffiti, as long as its not inappropriate, that it would be cool.

    http://www.caliskatz.com/v4/skatepark_pictures/paloalto/paloalto1_sm.jpg

    and if something does show up inappropriate, than we just enlist the artistic abilities of Charlie Hussman, an avid skateboarder and fantastic artist (Creator of the proposed skate park model), to cover it up.

    And as for skating downtown, i think that a skate park will help the downtown skate problem. a lot of the kids come to the key and attempt to use the back deck of the Key to skate, but it ruins the deck. So we ask them politely to please stop. but they always answer with “where?!” where do we skate board? we cant skate anywhere downtown, we cant skate any Private parking lot. so where do we go?” They need someplace to go, and this skate park will be that place. And then if there are still skateboarders skating downtown, we simply tell them “you wanted a skate park, now go use it!”

    And I must agree with you Mim, I think Sean needs actually COME INTO the key for once and hang with us stoners 😉 and see what its really like. you can’t judge a book by its cover, a youth center by its tattered look, or by the few people rumored to be stoners that hang there. and even if there are, they are not/not doing anything while they’re at the key, or they’re be kicked out. I promise Sean, if you come down to hang at least once, we’ll play nothing but Scissor Sisters and Cher on the stereo, Just for you! 😀

  13. Mim, thank you for your comments.

    “Even if you are not an expert in the field, or especially if you are not an expert about skateparks, you could be a little more careful about your assumptions.”

    Fair enough, but not all assumptions are false.

    Gilly —

    “i actually think if there is graffiti, as long as its not inappropriate, that it would be cool.”

    Graffiti can be neat-looking, but I think unregulated alterations to public property are still negative. And people doing it really puts a negative light on a neighborhood.

    “And I must agree with you Mim, I think Sean needs actually COME INTO the key for once and hang with us stoners 😉 and see what its really like. you can’t judge a book by its cover, a youth center by its tattered look, or by the few people rumored to be stoners that hang there.”

    Remember, my point about The Key was not that it is a drug-infested environment, only that it’s attained the perception of one because of a minority of kids. Surely you wouldn’t deny that there are some kids of The Key who do drugs excessively?

  14. Sean, come on. How old are you really? You’re not really a teenager, are you? You’re just puttin’ me on. I get it, this is a joke. I’ve been pod-punked.

    Give it up already about proving that there is at least one druggie at the Key. That’s so beside the point of this whole discussion. I just have a feeling you are going to have the last word, no matter what. So, I’m signing off – good night and good luck. 🙂 It’s been fun.

  15. im not going say that there isn’t a single kid that hangs out at the key that does drugs. because i know that there are kids that do. im just saying that they are a big minority at the key (as in very few), and are not regulars. so to say that the key is where the stoners hang out, doesnt hold up much at all.

  16. I have found the Key to be a really safe and supportive environment. The reputation of the Key is way over done. The Key is quite well supervised and I have never felt unsafe or pressured. The staff members are good about keeping drugs and alcohol away. The Key has many programs and activities that are very positive, so you should come down and see the Key before you make statements about its reputation.

  17. Great conversation, all. It would be great to have Joe McGowan to chime in here… and maybe some other Union of Youth board and staff members, too.

    I sympathize with the skate plaza advocates, as I’m a dirt biker (motorcycle trials) and we get unfairly tarnished by the bad behavior of the unruly types, too. We not only have to police ourselves/club members rigorously, we have to speak out/act to address problem behaviors when we see them.

    So my question to Joe and other skate plaza advocates: what can you do publicly to address problems like the damage done by a few problem skateboarders to the new swimming pool last week and the library plaza last year? I’ve not seen anything on the Union of Youth blog about this… which would be one way to address it. I thought Ruth Amerman’s recent guest column in the Northfield News was well-written but she didn’t address this problem, either. And I neglected to ask Joe about it in our recent podcast. Anyone know if he addressed it at the NDDC dowtown forum on Tuesday?

    One other thought: it would seem that a skate plaza like the one proposed brings a much stronger element of athleticism to skateboarding than simply a place for skateboarders to ‘hang out.’ And that element is likely to attact more parents and other adults to come and watch. Which is partly why more skateparks are adding free wi-fi to the facility.

  18. what can you do publicly to address problems like the damage done by a few problem skateboarders to the new swimming pool last week and the library plaza last year?>

    A sarcastic (uh, oh!), but not entirely unrelated response: Griff, as an adult who drives, what can you do to address problems like adult drunk driving in Rice County? Should we assume that all drivers are drunk? That driving leads to drunk driving, so we shouldn’t have streets? I think it is an unfortunate reality that people are too often judged according to the actions of others by people who rely too heavily on stereotyping to understand society.

    Another example: The benefits the colleges bring to Northfield are far greater than the associated costs — including rental properties, drugs, biking downtown, theoretically foregone property taxes, voting complications, etc. While some people continually complain about these downsides, stereotype students as freeloading partiers and act like they wish the colleges weren’t here, I strongly believe we are better off as a community with their presence.

    In my brief tenure so far on the Key’s Adult Advisory Board, I have attended several Key events and meetings. I went in with pretty high expectations — given that this organization has been youth run since its inception many years ago — but was still blown away with the level of responsibility these guys show. They recognize the impact actions of others have on their own reputation and do work actively to counteract that. They have cleaned up messes others have made, have worked actively to support the community, and continualy strive to raise awareness about their true positive nature.

    To me, it is important to support community originated ideas that make sense (think co-op). The Union of Youth and a skatepark are two examples of community oriented things with high benefit and low cost — compare the cost of both of these put together to the cost of any of the other proposed capital projects.

  19. Alex, I’m just suggesting that the skate plaza supporters address the bad behavior and bad publicity caused by some skateboarders, just like the ATV and snowmobile associations/trail advocates have had to address problem behavior in order to get support from the state for their trail initiatives.

    I’m delighted to hear you’re on the Union of Youth Advisory board.

  20. Griff, I’d like to hear some examples of effective advocating. What, specifically, has the snowmobile assoc. done to address problems? How might these “ways and means” work for skateboarding issues?

  21. I still feel sort of confused about the damage done to the pool. Could they tell by the damage that it was done by skateboards? or are people assuming that it was done by skateboarders? Also is it affecting the opening date at all?

  22. Mim, I’m not a snowmobiler but in the 70s, they had a bad reputation and by the 90s, they’d turned it around by organizing riders into clubs and state associations. These organizational structures also helped get their voice heard at the legislature when it came time for getting state money. See more at the Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association.

    They also established a Snowmobiling Code of Ethics with the state that now gets drilled into the heads of newcomers to the sport.

  23. Griff, that sounds good. I kind of wonder if it’s an apples to apples comparison though. I don’t know if skateboarders will ever become organized into clubs and statewide associations with money and legislative clout.

    The organization and self-advocacy the local skateboard coalition has accomplished is very impressive, but I don’t know if policing other skateboarders is very plausible. They can probably influence other skateboarders to an extent, but then I agree with Alex – you can’t let a few renegades ruin the whole thing.

    A written code of “skateboarder ethics” would be a great idea. Just like team sports have a good sportsmanship policy. Again, you may not be able to get everyone to adhere, but it would be a good start.

  24. Mim, I don’t know that skateboarders have to mimic the organizational structures of the snowmobilers but there is now a Northfield Skateboard Coalition to get the plaza built. Why not a Northfield Skateboard Association to help maintain it, grow participation, promote the plaza, promote a code of ethics, and I would argue, help police the behavior at the plaza?

    I agree that it’s not their responsibility to police the whole town. But I think it would help in this case for the organization to have a public response (letter to the editor, blog post, etc) that deplores the destruction at the new pool.

  25. Last week I talked to a skater’s mom and friend of ours– and I understand there is a breakfast on May 20th to raise funds for the skate board park.

    I hear it is at the ballroom… omelets. Who knows more specifics?

    I suppose we’ll have to swing by there for food that AM–

    Sean, why do you really oppose the skate park? Is it the money, or the idea of a congregation, or just that you don’t like the way people discuss the issue?

  26. Ruth Amerman has a letter to the editor in today’s Northfield News re: the destruction at the new pool:

    Don’t blame all skateboarders

    To the editor:

    As most of you have probably already heard, last week teenagers, who the police believe to be skateboarders, vandalized the new Northfield pool. I am not here to argue with anyone about this information but I would like to say a couple words on behalf of the Northfield Skateboard Coalition. In no way do we encourage the destruction of public and personal property and we hope that a few misguided youth do not ruin the reputation and hard work of the members of the coalition.

    We hope that the people of Northfield look at what happened and do not blame or punish the skateboard community as a whole, but rather look at it as an unfortunate event involving only a few teens that in no way are connected to what we are trying to accomplish. We are working as hard as possible, and the last thing we would wish would be something like the vandalism at the pool. We deeply regret what happened and hope that no one will look at the coalition in a negative view because of this.

    If anyone needs more information about our goals, the Skateboard Coalition holds meetings at 5 p.m. Wednesdays at The Key. Everyone is welcome to join us.

    Ruth Amerman

  27. Nice voice, Ruth!

    Thanks Ross for the link to nddc.org, which I notice has a new site. Sidenote– I like the faster download for this new site. I must admit I didn’t read the blog since it was such a large first page, but now I’ll poke around in there sometimes.

    ALso, FYI, I received an e-mail from Zachary Pruitt of the Northfield Healthy Community Initiative about the breakfast benefit– Here’s some of it:

    The American Legion has generously agreed to host an all-you-can-eat
    omelet breakfast for the Northfield Skateboard Coalition on Sunday,
    May 20. Omelets and other breakfast items will be served from 8:00 AM
    – 12:30 PM at the Legion Ballroom (1005 N. Highway 3 in Northfield).
    The American Legion members will make the breakfast and youth from the
    Skateboard Coalition will help with set-up, serving, and clean-up.

    The youth are working *really* hard to sell tickets for this event.
    Ticket costs are $7 for adults, $3 for children under the age of 13,
    and free for children under 3. HCI has a number of tickets, so if
    you’d like to purchase any (or would like to help the youth sell
    some!), please let me know.

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