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Rhinelander moves forward with Pioneer Park as location for skate park and splash pad

The Over It! group that's been working to build a skate park in Rhinelander.
The Over It! group that's been working to build a skate park in Rhinelander.

For years, skateboarders in Rhinelander would try to find any spot they could to practice.

But no matter how respectful they tried to be eventually they’d be told to move along.

“I mean practically abandoned would be the term I’d use. Even though we weren’t able to stay there indefinitely because we got kicked out honestly. We would do our best, sweep the area. We had trash cans in place that we kept emptying I would say at least biweekly,” said Hunter Hapka, a recent Rhinelander High School graduate and the secretary of Over It!, the group of teens and young adults working to find a permanent place to skate and hang out.

They want to make it a space for everyone.

“We have done our best to outreach to the community and share experiences with everyone. Like in our most recent pop-up for Halloween. We were helping kids, even if it was for a couple minutes, learn how to skate,” said Hapka.

After a year of meetings, public input, standing in front of Rhinelander City Council and a feasibility study, the Over It! group recently got a major step in the process accomplished.

Rhinelander City Council last month voted to move forward with a location for Rhinelander’s new skate park and splash pad.


Ahead of their vote, Public Works Director Randy Myrum told the City Council that he met with Over It! and ArtStart a few times to discuss locations.

ArtStart has been guiding the teens and young adults from Over It! through this entire process of creating a skate park.

Melinda Childs is ArtStart’s Community Cultural Development Director who has been working with the group.

“I don’t know what you would call that role other than just sort of support or just trying to be a support organization. But put them in the driver’s seat. It’s all about the youth leadership,” said Childs.

It came down to Hodag Park and Pioneer Park as the best options to fit all their needs.

Myrum says Pioneer Park was his first choice because it has bathrooms, lights, a lot of foot traffic and is centrally located.

“Another thing is this area tells the kids, especially in Over It! and tells the community that we’re inclusive. We want you as part of the community. You’re going to be involved with pickleball group, the older generation. You’re going to be involved with the young kids at the park and you are part of us,” said Myrum.

Myrum acknowledged the building of the skate park would likely displace the Oneida County Fair that currently uses Pioneer Park.

The fair will still be there in 2023, but Myrum mentioned a solution for the future, though did not go into detail at the council meeting.

Replacing the baseball field at Pioneer Park to make room for the skate park was the other possible conflict.

Myrum says he talked with area teams and leagues that would use the field and no one was strongly opposed to losing that field.


“[They] very much understand our predicament. We have about seven ball diamonds in Rhinelander. We have no skate parks,” said Myrum.

A couple of city council members wanted to confirm Pioneer Park would be big enough to house the skate park.

In earlier discussions, city council members urged Over It! to dream big and help create something that would be around for generations.

“I can build it as big as you want it if you give me enough money,” said Myrum.

That was encouraging for Over It! President Anthony Gaudioso to hear.

“Hearing that our points were reciprocated by Council and the City, that’s astonishing to be able to see that keep getting pushed further. That’s the goal really,” said Gaudioso.

Over It! plans to keep being involved in the process, they want to make sure the city’s money is being well spent on a park that will last generations.

Gaudioso says they’ve already built up a lot of partnerships that will help them make the best skate park possible.

“We’re able to branch out and make those connections and see different examples and see not only good examples of parks that worked really well for the community and the environment, but also examples of parks that have been built in certain areas that appear to almost be a waste of money. Being able to have this network of amazing partners and people to communicate with is another thing we’re going to take advantage of,” he said.

The other part of that is making sure the next generations will work to keep it a place the community can be proud of.

“We’ve worked hard to generate a bond with the younger generations as well because we’re all growing up. We can’t be here forever. We want someone to be able to take care of this space just as good as we will,” said Hapka.

And while the Over It! group is excited to have a space to call their own, they want to make it clear that they’ll welcome everyone.

“We want to make sure everyone’s involved and understand that this isn’t just a park that’s just for us. We’re more than welcoming to see other people there. Because this will be a space we’ll love and we’ll love other people to love it too,” said Hapka.

On of several pop-up skate parks in the city over the last year.
On of several pop-up skate parks in the city over the last year.

The city council approved the next steps which involved Myrum putting out a Request for Qualifications to see which engineering firm will be best suited for this project.

Myrum hopes to get responses by the end of February.  

Clarification note: An earlier version of this story stated "Myrum acknowledged there is a conflict with the Oneida County Fair that currently uses Pioneer Park." WXPR has edited the story to clarify that there's not a conflict between the Oneida County Fair and the skate park, but that building the skate park would likely require the Oneida County Fair to move locations.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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