EVANSTON, IL — Jodi Mariano doesn’t consider herself a skateboarding aficionado in the least, but after helping deliver a dedicated space for Evanston skateboarders and other wheeled enthusiasts to call their own just in time for Christmas, she can certainly appreciate what the city’s new skate park offers.
Mariano, the principal urban designer at Teska Associates —a community planning and landscape architectural firm that specializes in creating public spaces for public use — has watched Evanston’s newly opened skate park on the eastern end of Twiggs Park go from the design phase to completion in the span of 2 ½ years.
In that time, public officials, residents, and designers collaborated on not only what the $1.7 million, 10,000 square foot custom concrete skate park would look like, but also what elements mattered most to those who will utilize the space now that the park has opened. The park, which opened just before Christmas, includes a bowl, quarter pipes, wedges, stairs, and a variety of steel elements that were all part of the planning and design phase of developing the park.
Like with all of Teska’s public projects, public input proved critical in developing the skate park, which provides skaters, BMX bikers, rollerbladers, and others their own space to ride rather than trying to find other parts of the city where they can put their skills to the test.
The dedicated skate park replaces the former space which was set apart for skaters and bikers at Crown Park in the paved lot just east of the Robert Crown Center. Now open, the park provides ample space for wheeled sports enthusiasts to not only have a place to enjoy but also have their fingerprints all over the project.
“We go into these projects with absolutely no idea what it’s going to turn out like,” Mariano told Patch on Tuesday. “But here was the very passionate (skater) community who had been driven out of all of the makeshift places that they tried to create to practice their sport and after the site was selected, we kind of married the community with the site.”
Once city officials voted to have the skate park built at the Twiggs Park location, Teska’s team asked interested parties for design images and concepts, which were then merged into three different design concepts, Mariano said. Once the three renderings were created, public input was collected before the design options were dwindled down to two and eventually down to a final concept with more public opinion being considered at every turn, Mariano said.
The space is not only meant for experienced skaters and riders, Mariano said, but also creates a park for teachable and learning moments for the next generation of wheeled enthusiasts. But in working to create public spaces – and in Evanston’s case, a skate park – giving the public exactly what they want in most instances becomes a priority for the design firm tasked with bringing the plan from design to reality.
“If you do have that public input, then you have a buy-in from elected officials and you have buy-in from the community who will take care of the park for years to come so it’s so important,” Mariano said.
“We can’t provide every single thing on the wish list, but we hear the wish list, and we try to find all the common denominators that people do agree on and build up from there and we test ideas.”
Over time, Mariano said that not only did she see the buy-in from community leaders and residents, but she also saw connections made between people who might not otherwise engage with one another. In the case of the skate park, the lengthy process between planning, design, and the completion of the space last month allowed for meaningful conversations to take place as those who will use the park the most saw everything come into clearer focus.
The project, which first started in 2021, was partially funded by the city, which also received an Open Spaces and Land Acquisition And Development grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Mariano said.
The area where the park is located is described as being light-industrial that over time, will likely see more restaurants open and other business investments and be used by those who spend time at the skate park, Mariano said. In addition to providing a space for skaters and bikers, city officials said the dedicated skate park will free up city public spaces such as Fountain Square where skaters had previously used to put their skills on display.
With this project, Mariano believes the skate park will improve the surrounding community which will prove to be a win-win for everyone involved, she said.
“You start to see this ripple effect,” Mariano told Patch, “and it’s really wonderful.”
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