Group Advocates for Columbia Falls Skatepark

The Badrock Skatepark Association had a preliminary meeting with city staff to discuss making skateboarding more accessible

By Micah Drew
Lochlan Carpenter rests on a rail during the Skate Fish skateboard camp at The Dave Olseth Memorial Skatepark in Whitefish on July 11, 2019. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

On Feb. 9, members of the recently formed Badrock Skatepark Association (BSA) met with the city of Columbia Falls Parks Committee to have a preliminary discussion about bringing a skatepark to the city.

The nonprofit, which was formed last fall by Matt Holloway, Rebecca Powell, Tyrel Johnson, and Simon Smith, hopes to offer the local skateboarding community the same access as residents of Kalispell and Whitefish have.

“I’ve been driving to Whitefish and back every day to skate for nearly 15 years,” said Holloway, a lifelong skateboarder who used to teach at Whitefish High School. “In the back of my head I always felt a little bit of remorse for the homies in Columbia Falls who couldn’t drive or bike to Whitefish.”

Holloway said the goal of the nonprofit is to handle the fundraising for a skatepark, and do most of the legwork when it comes to building the actual structures before turning it over to the city of Columbia Falls to own and maintain.

“This initial conversation was to let the city know that we’re serious and invested in this endeavor,” Holloway said. “I think they were equally optimistic and excited that we’re serious about doing this.”

Montana is home to more than 32 parks, many of which are world-class and in locations that top-notch skating venues might not be expected.

Just in the northwest part of the state, starting in Whitefish and heading down U.S. Highway 93 to the Idaho border one can string together skateparks with startling regularity — Whitefish, Kalispell, Polson, Ronan, St. Ignatius, Missoula, Stevensville, Hamilton, Darby.

“I can go to any of these skateparks around the state and know kids there, or adults who started skateboarding as kids,” Holloway said. “We’ve formed connections all over the state because there’s such a positive community centered around skateboarding.”

One reason Montana is known for having so many high quality skateparks is the work done by Peal Jam bassist Jeff Ament, who has helped fund and build parks across the state, many in small rural communities including the 13,000 square foot Thunder Park in Browning. Holloway said when he mentioned the Columbia Falls skatepark to Ament, he was excited by the idea.

In Whitefish, the Dave Olseth Memorial Skate Park in Whitefish was built in 2005 and boasts an impressive combination of features, including two pools, a burnside wall, down bars, flat bars, metal rails, down box, pyramid, cradle and stairs. Holloway is currently helping lead an effort to expand the venue.

“Just because there’s a top notch park in Whitefish and one in Kalispell, that just doesn’t help the kids in Columbia Falls and it doesn’t create a community,” Holloway said.

Holloway estimates they will need to fundraise around $300,000, plus find a suitable location.

“Obviously I’d want the biggest, baddest park I could build,” he said. “If we have a big piece of property we’re going to fill it accordingly.”

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