May 7, 2021 - News

Des Moines' first skatepark was decades in the making

A man holds up a skateboard on his porch

Carl Cummings was arrested in 1998 for skateboarding in DSM. He still lives and skates in the city. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

Downtown DSM's Lauridsen Skatepark ribbon cutting ceremony is Friday, just ahead of hosting this month's sold out Dew Tour.

So we're paying homage to what brought us here: Skateboarding pioneers discouraged by the city over concerns with legal liability and public safety.

Why it matters: The skatepark is an important new amenity whose history underscores why civic engagement is crucial to our community.

Flashback: In 1998, police had implemented a skateboard warning policy of "three-strikes-you're-in-jail," and hauled skaters Carl Cummings and Keith Wilkinson off in a paddy wagon for skating at Cowles Commons, according to Register reporting at the time.

  • Cummings pleaded guilty and was fined $25. Wilkinson's case was dismissed after prosecutors failed to file paperwork, court records show.

The arrests were cited in support of a bill moving through the legislature that year to exempt cities from liability for personal damages related to skateboarding. (Liability was a reason DSM did not have public skateparks.)

  • In a show of support, then-Gov. Terry Branstad invited Cummings and Wilkinson to the bill's signing. That bill paved the way for Lauridsen Skatepark more than two decades later.

Driving the news: A church youth group also played a pivotal role after telling a community organization back in 2004 that a skatepark was at the top of their Des Moines wish list.

What they're saying: Cummings, now 43, recently had hip replacement surgery but will use the new skatepark in coming months. Wilkinson, 42, plans to skate immediately after today's ribbon cutting.

  • "We were always accused of graffiti, breaking into cars. Everything. But, no. We were just skateboarders," Cummings told Axios.

What's next: Today's ceremony starts today at 4:30pm, 901 2nd Ave.

  • Hours: Today 5-10:30pm; Saturday 6am-10:30pm; Sunday 6am-10:30pm.

The Dew Tour is May 20-23. (The park's general admission is closed between May 10-27 for the tour.)


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