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Effort to create skate park in Bemidji resumes

Nate Dorr is on a mission. Again.

In the mid-1990s, the Bemidji resident was loosely involved with a local effort supporting a Bemidji skate park.

Ten years later, he's advocating for the same skate park.

Dorr, 31, is now working with the Bemidji Youth Advisory Commission as a volunteer consultant to encourage the construction of a free, public skate park that would be constructed in Bemidji.

"The only agenda I have is to get a skate park built in Bemidji," Dorr said.

The campaign in the '90s resulted in Smart Skate, a privately run indoor skate park that is now closed.

"It wasn't what the skaters wanted," Dorr said. The Smart Skate had wooden ramps and a fee was required for entrance, Dorr said, explaining that local youth wanted a free, public skate park.

The Skate and Bike Association, which led the drive in the '90s, soon disbanded, he said.

But this fall, the effort was renewed as the BYAC announced that the construction of a Bemidji skate park was among its goals.

Dorr, a skateboarder, grew up in Bemidji, left the area and has since returned. During his time away from Bemidji, he visited public skate parks in Oregon, Montana, Washington, New Mexico and Colorado.

He's seen how it should be done.

About three years ago, before he left Bemidji for a job in Montana, Dorr briefly served on the Bemidji Parks and Trails Commission. He planned then to renew the efforts for a skate park, but was called away for work.

His mother, Darlene Dorr, recently joined the commission, and during her first meeting, BYAC member Kathy Dekrey presented the skate park goal - and Dorr soon joined the campaign.

"I told my mom I would be willing to do anything it takes to get a skate park built in Bemidji," Dorr said, explaining how he got in touch with the BYAC.

Along with his skateboarding experience, Dorr's involvement brings professional skills as well. He has master's degrees in public policy and public administration, as well as experience in both grant writing and community organization.

Dorr has been working mainly with Dekrey to advance the project.

Together, they have organized a group of parent volunteers to help spread support of a skate park, and also developed a Web site,, to garner comments on the proposal.

The Web site initially drew 170 comments; one was opposed to the skate park, Dorr said,

Dorr also is gathering "experienced" skateboarders (those a bit older than the average middle- or high-schooler) who have seen successful parks throughout the country. This group is reviewing possible sites and offering input on what might work best for Bemidji, Dorr said.

"We're getting local input from experienced people," Dorr said.

Dorr made an initial presentation to the Parks and Trails Commission on Nov. 13. He plans to present an update next week on Jan. 8.

"City staff has been really helpful," Dorr said. "Everyone we've dealt with has been great."

A specific proposal has not yet been finalized, as Dorr and the BYAC are continuing to contact businesses and nonprofit groups that could aid in the funding of a skate park.

"Bemidji is really in a unique position to do this," Dorr said.

The city has the Nielson Foundation and the half-cent sales tax that could be used to construct a skate park, he said.

Dorr said he is hoping to attract the support of a famous person.

"Celebrity involvement would certainly be nice," he said.

A best-case scenario would have the project drawing the attention of professional skateboarder Tony Hawk. The construction of a free, public skate park in a low-income area such as Beltrami County could possibly attract such support, he explained.

The group is now considering a proposal that would include about 60 percent of skate plaza features, such as rails, bends and more "street-style" skating opportunities. The other 40 percent would consist of "skate park" features, which generally include more "bowls" and "tranny-style" elements.

Skate plazas are typically more green and park-friendly, Dorr explained. Skate parks are constructed mainly of concrete.

The project also is planned to be a beautification effort that would green up the city, Dorr said.