Bellevue student Lucas Stroud, a member of the Welding Academy at Maquoketa High School, tightens a bolt on one of the new ramps at the Maquoketa Skatepark. The academy’s production welding class has worked on rehabilitating the old ramps and fabricating new ones for the past three years. 

A new half-pipe and modified ramps beckon skating and biking enthusiasts to the Maquoketa Skatepark.

More than 15 years after a Maquoketa Eagle Scout worked to raise money and build the amenity, other high school students have worked for three years to rejuvenate the park — including the new half-pipe and ramps — with the hope of enhancing the park even more in the near future.

The skatepark is located between the Grove Street ball diamonds and the electric plant, near the pedestrian bridge spanning the Maquoketa River on Maquoketa’s north side.

The new and modified metal fabrications were the brainchild of the Maquoketa High School Welding Academy — and more specifically, the production welding classes — and teacher Craig Burken as well as Maquoketa City Councilman Kevin Kuhlman.

The group hopes the revamped park is something the community uses for years to come.

That’s why Burken has his classes working with nonprofit entities to fabricate various metalworks.

“I get the question from at least one kid every time we start working on a project for the community: ‘How much are we making from this?’” Burken said. “But I’m trying to teach them it’s OK to do (things) for nothing.”

It’s also about providing opportunities for kids.

“It gives the kids a place to go, but also a place to go to be with others who share the same interests,” Burken said.

Kuhlman agreed. “These kids put some skin in the game, and that’ll help hold some of the (would-be) vandals accountable for their actions (at the park),” he said.”

Maquoketa High School students Andrew Quatrochi and Abby Seyfert brought the skate park’s deteriorating, rusting condition to the attention of the Maquoketa City Council more than three years ago as part of a high school government project. They told council members they had friends who sustained minor injuries because of a lack of equipment upkeep.

“They propelled the council to fix the park,” Kuhlman said.

In a later meeting, council members said the skate park was an unsafe place for children to be, with metal parts protruding from equipment, possibly because of vandalism. 

Kuhlman, who’s a welder by trade, said he toured skateparks around Iowa and found one in Osage that utilized simple steel designs for equipment. He snapped photos and collaborated with Burken on plans to improve the existing equipment and fabricate a new half-pipe that many youths insisted would attract users, Burken said.

Students removed the two existing 4-foot ramps and doubled their size to 8 feet. They drew up specs for the ramps and the half-pipe, devised the materials list, ordered supplies, constructed the equipment, installed it, and priced the project.

Local businesses contributed to the cause. Burken thanked Precision Metal Works for rolling much of the sheet metal to help connect the projects. Tom Heiar of Preston painted the ramps before the 2021 Maquoketa students picked them up and installed them at the skatepark last week.

In total, about 80 MHS students worked on the three-year project, which took a bit longer than planned due to the pandemic, Burken said.

Overall, the project cost about $10,000, Burken said. About $1,500 came from taxpayer dollars, Kuhlman noted, with the remainder coming from grants and donations.

Burken said he’d like more people to bring their wish list to the council so the students can help give back to the community.

“I think the kids learned a lot by putting (the ramps) together,” Burken explained. 

If all goes well at the skate park, next fall the Maquoketa Parks Board and city council will consider user feedback about future amenities to add to the park, Burken said. It will depend on the park’s use, the city, and the money available, he added.

“We want the kids … who skate to have a place to go,” Burken said. “This gives them something to do at no cost to them.”