Local skaters team up to liven up skate park

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

Skaters are back to spinning tricks at the Lebanon Skate Park following an interruption of activity due to COVID-19.
After hearing about problems this past year, the board of the nonprofit Lebanon Skate Park and other volunteers stepped in to whip the 15,000-foot space back into shape.
Since there hadn’t been much activity, more adults had been showing up with disruptive behavior, said Corey McEldowney, board president.
“There’s been some tagging; there’s been some vandalism,” said Jason Williams, public works director for the City of Lebanon.

Hunter King, 15, of Corvallis, flips his board off the ramp where cement is being added to cover the dirt.

The city owns the park, but the Lebanon Skate Park committee actively manages it on a volunteer basis. During the past several months, the group stepped in to help by cleaning up graffiti, discouraging drug and alcohol abuse, and hosting the annual skate competition.
“We’re real thankful for their support,” Williams said. “They help us with a lot. Everything’s going good; it wouldn’t be if we didn’t have their support. It sure makes it easier.”
Williams said his small crew spends about 35 percent of its time doing nothing but fixing vandalism and picking up people’s trash around the city. He added that it reaches a point where they have to ask themselves how many things they can keep operating and what can be replaced.
“It’s kind of the same struggle we have in all the parks,” he said. “The amount of vandalism citywide is sometimes insurmountable.”
Complaints about the park have been made this past year, McEldowney said. He was concerned that the park would be shut down.
“Everybody has a complaint and a threat, but they don’t have a solution,” he said. “We’re here to give solutions and not create a bigger problem. By taking things away from (the skaters), that’s only going to create a bigger problem and it’s not teaching them anything at all.”

Skaters give their own time to mix, pour and shape cement during a DIY skate park addition. Photo courtesy of Corey McEldowney

McEldowney and his wife, Sara, who serves as the board’s treasurer, have become something of the face for the board, showing up routinely and participating in maintenance projects. They encourage the kids to get involved, to take responsibility for and have a sense of ownership of the park. A DIY project has also been initiated this year, inviting kids to draw up ideas for park additions.
“After we built (the park), now we know where little problem areas are with dirt and gravel, so that’s what some of the DIY part is, to cover the dirt that keeps coming onto the park,” Corey said. “This is going to be a program where they mix the concrete, they pour the concrete, they form the concrete; they do every single step.”
Recently, skaters put in several hours to help set the first phase of a concrete pour at the park’s northwest corner. A week earlier, they cleaned graffiti and painted yellow lines around the bowl.
During their time together this summer, the McEldowneys began ordering food to feed the 30 or 40 kids at the park every Friday.
“I think if they make that effort to be here, then they deserve a $5 meal,” Corey said.

Kids enjoy a meal brought to the park by the McEldowneys, funded by donors.

And he’s not talking about just the kids who help with the park. Most come just to hang out or skate, and Corey said he was happy if they went home with full bellies. He’s heard some of them talk about a lack of food at home, and some have never been to a sit-down restaurant.
Local businesses – Barsideus Brewing, Domino’s Pizza, Ixtapa Mexican Restaurant, Linn Lanes, Pizza Hut, Serendipity Cafe & Tea and Tony’s Tacos Shop – partnered with them to sell the meals for $5 each.
The McEldowneys hope to continue the Friday feed next summer, but want to rally financial support from the community to make it happen.
Corey and Sara first became active with the park when their son started skating there, long before the plaza was installed, before the banks, rails, quarter pipe, bowl and vertical. They, along with their three children, helped rally for the park’s expansion and design ideas. Their involvement sort of just grew from there, Sara said.
Corey used to skate, himself, but now, he said, he just tries to be an advocate for and a positive influence on the kids.
“I was in football, and I also hung out with the riffraff,” he said of his younger years. “I eventually went to the riffraff and did a lot of stupid s***, so that’s what I’m actually trying to stop. I tell them about my failures.”
He also found that it was easier to get through to them with food than by just sitting down to talk.
“Food is always that good buffer,” he said.

Corey McEldowney announces the start of the beginner’s category for the skate competition.

On Saturday, Aug. 7, Corey emceed a skate competition that drew participants from all over the valley. Board members Drew Briese and Ian Parks, along with volunteer Randy Adkison, served as judges while Sara served food.
A couple years ago, the Proski family from Gladstone was skating at the park when the competition set up around them.
They were so impressed with the experience that they made it a point to return when the next one was hosted, said Brian Proski.
“We love skate parks and skate communities because they’re so supportive,” he said. “This is a perfect example of one of those small towns that does it right.”
At the end of the day, following four hours of competition, kids could be heard thanking them for hosting the event.
As they left, Corey told one of them, “Love you. Good job. I’m proud of ya.”