SOUTH LOOP — Skateboarders accustomed to using the Loop's public art as urban obstacles have reason to rejoice.
Proposed plans for a long-awaited skate park in Grant Park were put to the public Wednesday night during a community meeting on Northerly Island, evoking a range of responses from skaters and residents.
The park is slated for the southern end of Grant Park, near Roosevelt Road and the Illinois Central railroad tracks. It would be built using a mix of private funding and almost $1 million in money from the Near South TIF district.
Aside from giving skaters a safe and accessible place to ride, the park is a smart investment, said Bob O'Neill, president of the Grant Park Conservancy and Advisory Council.
"We have to continually think and plan for the future in order to be a competitive city," he said.
O'Neill included worldwide visitors as well the more than 60,000 "landlocked" college students around Grant Park in his calculation of those who could most benefit from the skate park.
Young skaters and older residents gathered at the meeting offered a mix of viewpoints — not always compatible — ranging from how the park will be lit to how noise will be kept at reasonable levels.
Mia Umanos urged park officials to continue seeking input from skaters throughout the design process in order to keep the park as safe and user-friendly as possible for skaters and pedestrians.
"Skate parks are no different from playgrounds," she said as her young daughter sat wide-eyed beside her. "And as a mother and a skater, I can see both sides."
O'Neill said officials "went the extra mile" in gathering input from local skateboarders on the Grant Park addition.
"I'd like to have an advisory council of skateboarders," he said.