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Skateboarders Construct Skate Park Under the Kingshighway Bridge

by Diana Zoga

KMOV.com

Posted on June 11, 2010 at 9:32 PM

If you frequent the Hill neighborhood in St. Louis, you've probably driven onto the Kingshighway bridge without ever seeing the skate park hidden below.

For nearly two years, a group of skaters have constructed ramps and half-pipes under the bridge. It serves as an underground public skate park. Admission is free - as long as you follow the rules.

Thirty-year-old Bryan Bedwell is part of the core group that constructed the park. He says the group asks skaters to keep the area clean and help paint over graffiti.

The land under the bridge belongs to the city. People who live in the area say it once served as an illegal dumping ground for old mattresses, trash, or worse.

That may be why the city hasn't really objected to the skaters building and maintaining the park.

Todd Waelterman, the city's streets director, told me that when his bridge inspectors first found the skate park - they notified him. Waelterman went down to check it out and found that the skaters actually made improvements to the site and kept it clean.

Officially, the city hasn't allowed the skaters to be there. Though it also hasn't told them to leave.

Bedwell says its motivation for the skaters who come to the park to maintain it and keep potential troublemakers out.

When I was there this afternoon, I met a father who brought his 10-year-old son to skate. He says he heard about the park through someone who works in another local organization's skate camp. He says his son was in heaven - skating with older boys who offered encouragement.

What if there's an accident or fall?  Waelterman called the question of liability a gray area. Bedwell said he views it as any public property - meaning that someone could skate on a sidewalk and get hurt. Bedwell said skaters skate at their own risk in this park.

The skateboarders started working on the park by pooling their money together (some of it was donated by area skateboard shops and other supporters). The skateboarders of Kingshighway are getting increasingly organized. They hold fundraisers to pay for materials to maintain the park and build onto it.

Friday night, they held a benefit concert at the Gramophone at 4243 Manchester Avenue. The owner of Gramophone told me he also skates. For a $10 cover, supporters can listen to music until 3 a.m. (It's an all ages concert until 10 p.m.  After that, you have to be 18 to enter).

This Sunday, the skateboarders plan to demonstrate their skills during the Tour de Grove. They'll set up from noon to 6 p.m. in the parking lot next to Gramophone taking donations and selling t-shirts.

The group has their own website now:  kingshighwayskateboarding.blogspot.com/

This park may not last forever. The city has plans to replace the Kingshighway bridge - though it may take another three to five years to come up with the funding.

Bedwell says, "We'll be here as long as we can be here." 

Diana Zoga is a general assignment reporter at News4.  You can reach her at dzoga@kmov.com or follow Diana on Twitter:  www.twitter.com/DIANAZOGA

 

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