It’s been 20 years since Nixon Park opened to skateboarders and has seen interest ebb and flow.
But not just because of the ebb and flow of interest in skateboarding. The biggest issue was lack of accessibility.
"It was closed for a while. Generally, it’s open in the summer when the water park is open. So it would close down in the spring and in the fall and then just open for the summer,” Jackson Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Andrew Sargeant said.
Because the skate park wasn't separated from the adjacent water park, it could only be open when there were workers there to supervise. That meant it kept the water park's hours and closed at the end of the summer season.
The city of Jackson put in an 8-foot-tall fence around the structure to separate it from the water park, which will allow the skate park to operate on its own terms.
“There’s a water park here, there’s an inline hockey rink, there’s a concession building. The city was fortunate enough to put up a fence so access to the rest of the facility would be closed. Ninety nine percent of skate parks in Michigan are skate at your own risk and come in as you go. We’re lucky to be at that part now," Sargeant said.
It opened to the public on May 7. Additionally, BMX bikes can be used at the park for the first time as well as scooters and rollerblades. It can now remain open from dawn to dusk, weather permitting, and will close only during the winter season.
“They just want a skate park in their community so they don’t have to go to Lansing or Ann Arbor. The skate park is here. It’s been here. It should be open for them," Sargeant said.
The park has meant a lot to Brett Pickett. He has been coming there since 2001.
“It’s exactly where I grew up. I was 12 years old. I worked here for about 11 years and ran the concession stand and was here every single day. So, it’s basically where all of my friends grew up, gave us a place to be, a place to skate, and kind of created who we are,” Pickett said.
Brett, a brewer at Grand River Brewery, is excited to see people his age experience the nostalgia of skateboarding at Nixon Park as well as having the younger generation enjoy the same things he did when he was their age.
“Now that we know that we need a place to skate, I think a lot of us for my generation in our 30s and a lot of the 20-year-olds and all the young kids that we’ve never seen skate before are actually starting to come here now. It will give us a place to actually gather and meet each other and maybe hold events for future projects and stuff like we used to back in the day,” Pickett said.
It is unclear what the future holds for Nixon Park but something as simple as a fence is one step closer to reviving Jackson’s only skate park.
“We’ve been trying to organize maybe a Facebook group to at least make this place a more of an event-focused place where we can fundraise for new ramps, maybe new features, new concrete in the places that aren’t utilized right now. There’s a lot of people that want to get back into it,” Pickett said.
But that's in the future.
“I want them to be able to use it,” Sargeant said. “They’ve been here since the beginning. I want kids to be able to join the skateboard movement and the bike movement. To have a place in our community the Jackson community to be able to utilize it.”
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