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Skateboarders had a bad rap.
Bill Riphahn remembers them rolling through downtown, jumping off the steps of Topeka City Hall before being run off.
“They had a bad reputation,” said Riphahn, director of planning and development for Parks and Recreation of Topeka. “They got run off from places. Business owners were concerned about liability and that they might have scared off some of their clients.”
Finally a group of skateboarders did a very un-punk, un-rebel thing. They showed up at a city council meeting and asked for a skate park. And the city council members did a very un-crotchety thing. They listened to the skateboarders and said let’s work with them.
So Riphahn found himself at planning meetings with the skateboarders. They taught him about grind boxes and pyramids, fun boxes, grind rails and quarter pipes.
“We designed it with the kids,” he said. “We (the adults) didn’t know what we were doing. Truly, we didn’t know what we were doing. The kids knew what they wanted.”
For the first skate park, some neighborhoods bristled at the idea of seeing a skate park down the street. The Oakland Neighborhood Improvement Association embraced it, and the Mouse Trap Skate Park opened Oct. 15, 2000, in Oakland-Billard Park, 2000 N.E. Sardou.
The 10,000-square foot park was built on an unused tennis court at a cost of $194,100 and features a double pyramid, quarter pipes, elevated multi-level trick box, ground multi-level trick box, kicker with grind bar, land rail, bank to bank and feature obstacle. The Trap is popular among skateboarders for its street features and is lighted for skateboarding into the evening.
Four years later, Riphahn found neighborhoods more excited about the prospect of getting a skate park, and the second park was built at Shunga Glen Park, 2400 S.W. Washburn. Rip-On Skate Park features an eight-foot quarter pipe, six-foot coping spine, jersey barrier, Euro gap, pyramid plus, twisted fly box, kicker, rails and ledges. It was constructed on 9,310 square feet with a budget of $250,000. With lots of bowls, Rip-On is most popular among bikers. Unlike The Mouse Trap, it doesn’t have lighting.
The Mouse Trap and Rip-On are yearly host sites of the Kansas Action Sports Championship, which draws, skateboarders, bikers and inline skaters.
A small, neighborhood skate park opened in 2008 at Chesney Park. The Chesney skate park is half the size of the other parks.
“It’s a real neighborhood park,” Riphahn said.