Local skaters help Dee-liver new park

Community involvement helps Hood River skateboarders find a year-round facility

DEE — From the highway up above, “Compound Dee” looks like all the other abandoned lumber-mill warehouses that surround it: Dirty, dark and empty.

And it was, until about two years ago, when a group of local skateboarders sought permission to move an old double halfpipe — or “spine ramp” — into the building for storage and recreational use.

Mark Wojton, Remy Jacobson, Rich Conway and Kevin “Vito” Emerton organized an effort to convince local orchardist Andy von Flotow to let them use the facility, with the possibility of upgrading it down the road.

“It’s taken us a really long time to make the building useable,” said Emerton, who originally purchased the ramp in 1997.

“But it’s been worth it because we have had a place to go skate when the weather’s bad. Now we’d like to start seeing it used even more,” he said.

Which is why local skatepark volunteer Julie Tucker stepped in to lend her support.

Tucker saw that the tenants were having trouble keeping up with the rent, and approached von Flotow about a long-term plan for Compound Dee.

“The thing right now is just to keep it up and running,” said Tucker, who has also been instrumental in revamping the Hood River Rotary Skatepark on 17th and Wasco Ave.

“Andy has been extremely helpful and understanding of our situation, and we have every intention of maintaining the facility, both to his standards and those of the County Planning Department,” she said.

After adhering to some 22 stipulations set forth by the Hood River County Planning Department, Tucker secured an official certificate of occupancy on May 30.

A number of other guidelines still must be met before the facility can be legally used. But once Tucker can arrange liability insurance, she and the other skatepark organizers can begin to host skate contests and other youth gatherings.

“Our goal for this skatepark and every other skatepark in Oregon is to help build, maintain and improve our public facilities,” Tucker said. “Dreamland Skateparks (of Portland) has created a need, and Oregon now has more skateparks than any other state.”

Assuming Tucker can work out all the permits with the county, her long-term plans for Compound Dee include an after-school study area, a traveling skate shop, and paid supervision.

“The reason I think it could work is that there are only two supervised parks in the state right now,” she said. “Once we get county approval, we would like to make the warehouse a headquarters for all Oregon skateparks.

“We hope it becomes an after-school and weekend hangout so that we can generate enough money to cover the operating expenses. The idea is, it will eventually pay for itself,” she said.

But the county isn’t making the process easy for Tucker or the local skateboarders.

According to von Flotow, the commercial permit includes stipulations such as no expansion of hours, wheelchair parking and restroom facilities, construction of a fence along the Hood River, and a statement of operations that includes a clearly defined safety program.

“Julie has had a series of bizarre exchanges with the County Planning Department,” von Flotow said. “Some of the regulations they have set forth will be very difficult to meet, especially when (the skateboarders) don’t have a lot of money to get started.”

Tucker estimated that the basic monthly operating cost of Compound Dee would be approximately $800 (rent, insurance, permits, etc.). If a staff is needed to operate the skatepark, it could cost as much as $1,000 per month.

“It’s going to be tough for Julie,” von Flotow said. “I suggested to her that it’s a battle not worth fighting, because what’s in it for her? Is it really worth it when the odds are stacked against her?

“I don’t know, but it would be great if they could pull it off. And I’ll give them a fair chance to get it together before I offer the building to someone else,” he said.

In the meantime, Tucker will try to generate funds to pay for the use of Compound Dee, which will soon be known as “Oregon Public Skateparks.”

“I believe in this fight,” she said. “And I think it will eventually help build some valuable youth leadership groups here in the community.”

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