Another Region summer is underway, and in Valparaiso, that means a calendar packed full of events, programs, and activities of all kinds. Valpo Parks is responsible for many of them, including Friday’s Party in the Park, where they provided updates on some of their biggest projects, including the much-discussed Flounder & Friends Skate Park.
Valpo Parks themed the entire evening around the new park. Desserts were served on serving trays styled like skateboards, and the annual trivia contest quizzed partygoers skating knowledge. Kevin Nuppnau, assistant director of Valpo Parks who is set to inherit the seat of executive director in just a few weeks following the retirement of John Seibert, shared a major update on the status of Flounder & Friends. Originally positioned for a winter grand opening, construction on the new park is moving quickly and looks set to finish this fall.
“Concrete will be poured in just 30 days, and the $1.9 million phase one of the project funded by the city and private donations, is ahead of schedule,” Nuppnau said. “In just a few months, Valpo will cross skate park off its list with enthusiasm for a journey well-traveled.”
The first phase of the Flounder & Friends is already set to be a premiere destination for skaters in the Region and beyond – with an array of rails and street features, a seven-and-a-half-foot quarter pipe, a large founder-shaped bowl, and more. Yet Valpo Parks is not settling, and are seeking an additional $500,000 in donations to totally fulfill the vision crafted by world-renowned skate park designer Dug Ketterman – which would turn the park into a national, or even global, destination for skaters according to Skate Park Committee Co-Chair Matt Evans.
“We’re extremely excited to see this park moving forward, it was just a dream three or four years ago,” Evans said. “This park is going to serve a really under-served group in our community, those action sports kids and adults who love the adrenaline of skating and proving themselves on a daily basis. We’re so thankful to the community for all the support they’ve given, and for continuing to push the project forward.”
Local skaters have been involved in the project from the outset, with their feedback helping influence the design and direction of the park. Jeff Zielinski, is one such skater, having joined the Skate Park committee in the early stages of discussion. He is the founder of the Driftwood Collective, an organization of skaters from around the Region and beyond, the Driftwood Collective looks to unify Midwestern skaters to foster the development of local skate parks.
“One of the biggest mistakes any place can make is not involving their local skaters because if you build a park without the help of the people who use it, you’re not going to build it right,” Zielinski said. “Valpo Parks avoided that. They’ve brought skaters in, heard their input, had the help with the design process, and actually listened to what they were saying so they could build something they’d want to use.”
Skate Park Campaign Director Deb Koeppen said that getting people such as Zielinski involved was an easy decision.
“They have the experience, they know what the public wants,” she said. “But the nice thing is that it’s actually not just about skateboarding. We think it’s going to address a greater community need.”
Flounder & Friends is set to accommodate skaters of all levels and ages, from amateurs to professionals – as well as inline skaters, scooter riders, and BMX bikers.
“We see these kids skating all over with no real place to go, they’re told you can’t be here and you can’t be there,” said Kaye Frataccia-Seibert, Skate Park Committee co-chair. “We have football, baseball, basketball, golf, and tennis facilities, but these kids are just as passionate about their sport and we want to create a space for them.”
Some of those kids are even fundraising for Flounder & Friends, earning their own money and drumming up support to make the park even better.
“I’m so overwhelmed with the amount of people that have come to us to be part of this skate park that have never given before,” said Lisa Kusbel, development director for Valpo Parks Foundation. “They’re so excited about bringing this park to Valparaiso. We’re even seeing kids take part and raising their own funds to help us reach that final phase.”
Within all of the discussions about the new park, the Valpo Parks team also took the time to recognize John Seibert for his decades of service to the community as he heads into retirement.
“Party in the Park is always a reflection of the community coming together to support philanthropy and volunteerism,” Seibert said. “It’s not just about the parks. It’s about so many great things in the community, and how it comes together as a selfless body that supports things like Flounder & Friends. I’m really thankful for that.”
To learn more about Valpo Parks, visit www.valpoparks.org