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Have Shovel, Will Skate!

Aug. 17, 2010
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Wednesday, August 4th brought a group of approximately 30-plus skateboarders from all walks of life carrying buckets and shovels to the site that formerly housed the world-famous Turf Skatepark, located near the Loomis Road exit off of I-894. 


The motley crew, inspired by word-of-mouth that quickly spread through the skateboarding community, gathered and removed chunks of concrete and gravel from the mini lipslide gulley, a four-foot deep concrete pool. The bowls had been filled in and covered with cement when street-style skating became popular, but the business didn't survive much longer, and the lot was sold in 1996. For a few hours, it was a skater's paradise.


"We dug that thing out in 8 hours," says Mike Schmidt, who grew up skating the park. 


"Eventually our crew got so big that we had one person on one side, one person in the bowl, both digging. It was super camaraderie and teamwork," says Jesse Geboy, another former Turf frequenter. 


The police, upon hearing of the goings-on at the site (It's speculated this was due to a report on the 10:00 WITI-TV Channel 6 News), showed up and put a halt to the operation.   


"I think it started out with the main goal of just to skate it one more time," Schmidt explains. Now, that goal has broadened. The skaters want their park back. Having received an enthusiastic response from current and former skaters as well as locals and people worldwide who have never even set foot on the property, it might just happen. 


According to John Gonzales, a former Turf frequenter and creator of the Milwaukee Skateboard Association (an organization designed to help resurrect the park), the Turf's indoor/outdoor park, made possible by "retractable walls, similar to garage doors, built around the skating area," allowed the Turf to host skateboarders year-round. The five bowls, all of differing sizes, depths, and terrains, "were so various that if you could ride the Turf, you could ride anywhere," says Jerome Urbaniak, an employee from 1988 to 1991 at the pro shop housed on the property (which sold skateboard-related gear).


The Turf had great draw for big-name skaters from all over the country. 


"It was the Mecca to come to," says Urbaniak. "You had parks in California at the time, but the big one that was there—that all the pros ride—was upland, and that got dozed, and all that was really left that was a good, good pro park was the Turf. Nation-wide. It was the place, period." 


Members of the Bones Brigade (the Powell Peralta skateboard company team that included legends such as Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Lance Mountain, and Mike Vallely), the Santa Cruz team (a group that included Jason Jesse, Steve Alba, Christian Hosoi, Natas Kaupas, Duane Peters, Tony Alva, Ray Barbee, and Chris Miller), and numerous other skateboard royalty were known to travel to the park. 


"If the Turf were to come back again, it would be forever, because skateboarding is now far more accepted," Urbaniak says. "The park would generate revenue. It would bring people to the city of Milwaukee, with skateboarding being as popular as it is today.” He adds, “There are guys out there with five million dollar shoe contracts for skateboarding. You've got Fuel TV (a channel devoted to skateboarding, BMX bikes, surfing, and the like); Tony Hawk making appearances on children's television shows ‘The Suite Life of Zack and Cody’ and ‘Yo Gabba Gabba’. It just has such a wide public acceptance now as compared to when I was growing up in the early- to mid- '90s.”


Gonzales, who has worked on a skateboard camp for kids four years in a row, says, "With skateboarding, when another guy and I are both learning a new trick, I want to push him so he does a better job. With any other sport, I'd want to beat him. If he skates better than I do, I'm glad because I'm going to watch him and learn from him and do it just like him." 


According to Emlynn Grisar, WisDOT Southeast Region Communications Manager, in a letter posted on the "Save the Turf" website, “The land the former skatepark was located upon was purchased to accommodate a new westbound I 894 off-ramp to northbound Loomis Road. It will be used as a staging area during the important Mitchell Interchange core reconstruction contract, slated to begin this fall. Following the construction project’s completion, WisDOT will turn the excess land over to the city of Greenfield, per a memorandum of understanding. The final disposition of the parcel will be decided by the city at that time.”


 For more information visit www.savetheturf.com


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