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Popularity of Chehalem Park and Recreation District faciilty may fluctuate, but the history of the park is significant

GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - CPRD officials take pride in the fact that the skate park is in good condition and is free of graffiti and the other vandalism often visited on similar facilities in the Portland area.

Roughly two decades since workers broke ground on the project at Ewing Young Park, the Chehalem Park & Recreation District still lauds its skate park as a premier destination for skaters from around the state – and country.

Superintendent Don Clements said that a few years back he was in the small town of Antioch, Ill., at a sports shop, and he overheard two young men talking about the skate park in Newberg as one they wanted to visit along the West Coast. He told them he was from Newberg and they were thrilled to learn more, he said.

They knew about Newberg because the park had apparently received national attention in "Thrasher" – a skateboarding newsmagazine that is distributed around the country. It wasn't the first time the eyes of the skateboarding world had been on Newberg, either. Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk and Olympic athlete Shaun White have visited the park, along with a swath of other professional skaters.

"Professional skaters have stopped by from time to time," Clements said. "We agree with a lot of them not to make a big scene when they come through the park, because they prefer to be unannounced."

The park itself is a cavern of pristine concrete, worn and scuffed by the wheels of time and untouched by graffiti or other forms of vandalism. That is a point of pride for CPRD and the skating community in Newberg, Clements said, and he added that the park has held up "extremely well" over the past two decades.

It also sits right next to the BMX track, creating an extreme sports complex of sorts for bikers and skaters alike.

CPRD is looking into putting covers over both the skate park and BMX track in the future. This would be useful during the rainier months, according to people who have attended CPRD board meetings and advocated for the changes.

"We have drawings of (the covers) and we don't have the specifications yet," Clements said. "We have cost estimates as well and we are definitely looking at that. The people who are interested in adding covers would go out and fundraise and we would put money in as well."

The origins of the skate park are unusual and contentious. Some local groups opposed the creation of the park, but Clements argued that it was in the spirit of Ewing Young – the park's namesake – to explore new opportunities.

A group named "Dreamland" initially approached CPRD with a proposal for the park. A bunch of young people, Clements recalls, arrived in a van and looked "more like a cult" than a construction company.

But their ideas were sound and they knew how to design skate parks from their experience in Canada, so CPRD took a leap of faith and brought them on staff to assist in the planning and building effort.

Members of the "Dreamland" group ended up forming their own companies and have built skate parks around the world, Clements said. The result of their work in Newberg ended up being a significant piece of CPRD's history and one that continues to draw local and out-of-state skaters, along with the occasional celebrity.

"The popularity (of the skate park) kind of ebbs and flows depending on the year," Clements said. "Every time I go out there, I'll look at car tags and see where people are from. I've seen people from back east, California, the west coast, etcetera. It's really been a big draw for us."


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