Port Huron's Optimist Skatepark completes redevelopment

The end of a collaborative effort that has been underway for several years now, the redesign of the skatepark at Optimist Park in Port Huron is complete and is quickly becoming a popular destination for skating enthusiasts.

Located at 1400 Whipple St. on the corner of 10th Avenue and Thomas Street, the permanent multi-use skatepark is open to skaters of all ages and proficiency levels and can accommodate a variety of sports including skateboarding, scooters, BMX, in-line skating, and rollerblading.

Nancy Winzer, Director of Port Huron Parks & Recreation, says Optimist Skatepark was originally constructed in August 2002 and although fundraising and efforts for its redevelopment began prior to the pandemic, work on the project was able to officially begin in spring 2022.

“I'm a big believer in innovative play spaces and traditional sports are not for every kid, so I think it's great to have other options for kids and families,” Winzer says.

Optimist Skatepark is located at 1400 Whipple St. in Port Huron, Michigan.

She says the impact of the skatepark extends beyond recreational benefits for residents as it attracts visitors from other areas helping to also stimulate the local economy.

“I don't know that people always realize the impact that our recreation assets have,” Winzer says. “I had someone share that they drove three hours just to come try our skatepark out. I mean, it not only rounds out opportunities for those that live here, but it also is an economic boost.”

The project was made possible with support from numerous donors and partners including St. Clair County Parks & Recreation, Community Foundation of St. Clair County, The Skatepark Project, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan, Michigan Department of Natural Resources Land and Water Conservation Fund, as well as the dedicated efforts of the skatepark advisory committee.

Having been skateboarding since he was nine years old, Port Huron resident Cody Cepeda says before Optimist Skatepark’s redevelopment he and his friends would usually opt to travel to other communities to skate.

“It was kind of just prefabricated ramps, it wasn't really the most intricate skatepark,” he says. “Me and my friends would go there every once in a while, but it really wasn't the quality of skatepark that we would enjoy using all the time.”

Cody Cepeda poses for a photo at Optimist Skatepark in Port Huron with fellow skateboarders Bryon Feiler (left) and Eric Cockream (right).

Cepeda participated in the advisory committee for Optimist Skatepark’s redesign. He says now, it’s a “night and day difference.”

“The design of the skatepark now is much more current,” he says. “All of the best skateparks around the United States, or even in different countries that I've been to, it's become so much more advanced in the way that the obstacles are designed and the quality of the materials that they use to make the obstacles.”

Although the work on Optimist Skatepark was completed at the end of November, an official ribbon cutting for the skatepark will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 20, with a free demonstration hosted by Alpine Cycles.

“That place has been packed since the day it was done,” Winzer says. “We didn’t want to leave it closed for one more second and the kids were chomping at the bit to get in there.”

Cepeda says anytime you go to Optimist Skatepark now it’s packed with people of all ages.

“There are kids on BMX bikes, a lot of kids on scooters, and I've seen girls on roller skates come all the way from Detroit just to check the skatepark out,” he says. “So it's definitely on people's radar as a place that they want to come.”
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Liz Fredendall is a photojournalist and communications professional with nonprofit experience. During her free time, she enjoys reading and exploring the Blue Water Area with her husband Erick and their corgi, Nori. Contact Liz at editor@thekeelph.com or follow her on Instagram @lizfredendallphoto.