Lionshead skate park honors local youth
If you go
What: Grand opening of the Zeke M. Pierce Skatepark.
Where: Lionshead parking structure, Vail.
When: Sept. 10, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
What’s happening? A ribbon cutting, food, music, pro skaters and lots of riding.
More info: Go to http://www.vailrec.com.
VAIL — Cameron Chaney’s idea for a skate park between the north and south halves of the Lionshead Village parking structure is finally a concrete reality. But Chaney’s family moved out of the valley about a year ago, so he hasn’t ridden the park yet.
That will change Saturday, when Chaney and a bunch of his Vail friends come out for the grand opening of the Zeke M. Pierce Skatepark. The park’s name comes from a Vail teen who died in a 2013 mountain bike accident.
Crawford Pierce, Zeke’s dad, said his family is honored and excited about the new park.
“Our heads are in the clouds right now,” he said.
Zeke was a frequent visitor to the old skate park at Lionshead. That park was a seasonal thing, with town crews building and tearing down the structure every year. That park now lives in more permanent form in Eagle.
Zeke Pierce, Chaney and their friends spent a lot of time at the seasonal park, along with Vail Recreation District Community Programming Director Chad Young.
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As 2013 turned to 2014, the seasonal structure was about due for some needed repairs and renovations. Young and Chaney started talking about reviving a long-dormant idea — putting a permanent skate park in Vail.
That idea had long run into a number of obstacles, the main one being where it might be. Land is scarce and expensive in Vail, and it’s hard to find a place that would be both available and unlikely to aggravate neighbors.
Why not here?
Chaney and Young started talking about the open area in the parking structure, and walked around there a few times. Chaney then got to work with his computer to sketch out a design for that spot.
“I’ve always liked to draw skate parks,” Chaney said. Sometimes he’d build small models of the parks he’d designed and ride them with his fingers on miniature skateboards.
But the park in Vail is the real deal, something Chaney could only dream about when he and Young took a design proposal to the Vail Town Council in March of 2014.
Council members were clearly impressed.
Current Mayor Dave Chapin was on the council at the time, and said the idea is a “great use of a tight space.”
At first glance, the space seems an unlikely spot for a skate park. Young said that the project became more difficult as those first glances turned into serious looks.
“There’s no place in (the space) where you can start with a flat rectangle,” Young said. There are odd angles in the space, as well as places where construction would interfere with the support footers on one side of the structure. Another potential hang-up was not blocking airflow to the south half of the structure.
Getting to work
It all took a lot of initial work, but the town council in July of 2015 approved spending about $1.7 million for the park.
The park was designed and built by California Skate parks. Young said that company put a lot of time and effort into understanding the space between the parking structures. The company also took the time to talk to local skaters. Young said that every suggestion gathered in two public meetings was incorporated into the final design.
“It’s super cool that the ones that are using the park got to design it,” Chaney said.
Since it’s in Vail, the new skate park also incorporates public art. Washington D.C.-based artist Valerie Theberge created four murals adjacent to the four stair towers of the skate park.
“The art is very much in the style Zeke liked,” Crawford Pierce said.
While the skate park has been open since July, Young said it took some time to get memorial signs made and get Chaney and the Pierce family together for the celebration.
Chaney said he’s grateful town officials made the decision to name the park for his longtime friend. When he heard about the decision to name the park for Zeke, “I thought it would be a great chance for remembrance of his name,” Chaney said.
The Pierce family always knew Zeke was a special kid. “We know that even more as time has gone by,” Pierce said. Friends have kept in contact during the past three years.
“We’re proud of that,” he said. “We’re also proud that he was a donor — seven people are still alive because of him.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.