Cover story: Fort Smith's new Skate/Bike Park to open in October
Riverfront Skate/Bike Park will have a grand opening on Oct. 13
At the new Riverfront Skate/Bike Park in downtown Fort Smith, you can almost feel the collective anticipation, the yearning of so many skaters and bikers who want to ride those tracks and drop in that that bowl. It’s so-oo-ooo close!
The parks planners and the Fort Smith Park Department had not named a date by press time, but a “soft opening” is promised in October. A grand opening day, as well. Update: Grand opening is now set for Oct. 13.
One lucky dog (and excellent drone photographer) has had a few test rides. Nick Gibson of Boardertown Skate Park, Fort Smith’s excellent indoor park, was an active consultant in the process of the park’s construction. Here is his early review of the park he helped to shape:
“I like the unique style transitions – there’s the Arkansas quarter and a pole jam that goes up a bank at a 45-degree angle. You grind up the rail kinda like a ramp and there’s another rail downhill to grind down. You can launch off the ramp, just to grind the downhill part.”
Got that? Skaters will. We trust Nick.
“The Arkansas quarter is a 10-foot quarter pipe,” he explained. It’s the red wall with a star locating Fort Smith, seen in the spectacular drone shots he shared with this magazine.
“The bowl area, or deep end, has a lot of different sections in it,” he continued. “There’s a radius pocket in the right corner and a long, 7-foot pool block.
“There’s nowhere else around here you can skate a pool block and good transition,” he said.
He said that skaters from all over are hitting him up on Instagram already, from places such as Colorado and Oregon, where he has been posting drone photos of the progression of construction.
“Everyone’s been like ‘where the hell is this? I must come!’ They’re saying ‘Fort Smith what? Where?’ There’s a big community, especially on Instagram, that lurks for a that new kind of park. It’s pretty easy nowdays.”
“That’s what I wanted to happen. If we got anything as a public park, I didn’t want it to be a waste of funds,” he said. Nick, who is 32, says he’s not a pro, “I just know what’s good and what’s bad. This is good.”
Although he’s a skater and operates a skate park, he welcomes the features that are for bikes.
“It’s really helpful,” he said. “Now we have good areas for the bikers to go to instead of always wanting to ride the concrete park. That’s the downfall of most skate parks is the clash between the bikers and the skaters fighting for the area. Now that they have a pump track plus the dirt area and all the whole river trail, there is a good blend of everything.”
It’s really helpful to have such a variety of fun zones to ride, he said. Nick hopes to encourage the city, in its next planned upgrade to Martin Luther King Park’s skate area, to add a dirt back track and pump track around the perimter of the hard-surfaced skateboarding area. He sees building more public skate/bike areas in town as a positive move, giving kids a place to exercise outdoors. “Want to get that phone out of their hand and get them outside? Make them a fun place to go ride,” he said.
Skateboarding is a mainstream sport, he said, soon to be an event in the Olympics. Skaters now wear safety equipment and ride on softer, safer wheels. They exercise hard and challenge and mentor each other.
Cyclists are much the same and bicycling is spread across an even wider age group. Parents and kids will be able to enjoy riding together at the park and on the Greg Smith Riverfront Trail.
On bikes or on boards, people teach each other. “It’s kind of like that big brother vibe – you kinda beat up on your little brother but you teach him, too,” Nick chuckled.
This helps reduce injuries, Mom. It’s good that different ages groups will skate together.
“You can say ‘hey don’t try that yet. Try this trick and that trick and then you can build up to the big trick,’ and it keeps them from getting hurt,” Nick said.
The editors thank Nick Gibson for the awesome drone photos and his expert evaluation of the new park. He’s also an advisor to the trails and park commissions. What an asset!
Drone progress photos by Nick Gibson. Bobby Aldridge of Frontier Engineering caught the rainbow ending at the Arkansas quarter-pipe feature.
This article appears in the October 2018 issue of Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine.