Category Archives: Letters

Resident would like to see skate park


It’s good to see Rockford considering building a skate park for the kids. Not every child wants to play football and baseball, and considering the amount of taxes Rockford residents pay for the football program and other sports programs at Rockford High School it seems like a more than worthwhile investment. More of the teenagers in our community would use this facility than will ever be allowed to play on the “organized sports” teams once they hit high school.

If it is true that Rockford has never been in the “recreation business” why is it we have so many city parks? I live behind Rotary Park, and there is a full basketball court, that is completely “unsupervised” and “unorganized” and yes a lot of foul language sometimes comes from it, and noise, and I don’t hear anybody in my neighborhood, (or Mr. Blakslee for that matter) urging the public to not allow basketball courts in Rockford any longer.

Another point I think needs to be made is that the majority of those who skate board will not be playing “rocket football” because they are generally jr. high school to high school age. Furthermore this letter really shows a lot of prejudice regarding what are permissible, and beneficial activities in Rockford. We benefit greatly by the recreation that is present in this area.

Those that use the river for kayaking, and canoeing contribute to our economy, as well as those who use the White Pine Trail. Having first class mountain biking trails (Merrill Trail, and Luton Park) brings many to our shops and restaurants who would otherwise never come here. Recreation is something we have going for us. Much of it we luckily don’t have to pay for directly because it is sponsored by other townships,the state or the county. I certainly would not consider these things outside the public good.

If allowed a skate park would be used by the skaters, and bmx kids currently riding downtown, and I’m sure it would see a lot of use. I would suggest putting it in Rotary Park (being in my back yard) and I think most of the residents that border it would welcome a venue for these kids. If they get out of control like they sometimes do at the basketball court we can just ask them to quite it down. I am sure they will show as much respect as the majority of the basketball players flying the F bomb every six seconds behind my house (they generally are respectful after you ask). In my experience skateboarders aren’t fundamentally different than any other kids, and I don’t see why we shouldn’t support a healthy activity so many Rockford kids are involved in.

Rockford is a great place to live because of the diversity of recreational activities, and I hope as a community we will not be so hopelessly out of touch that we don’t see what people are really looking for in a great community. When I say I live in Rockford the positive comments I get from people are the fantastic opportunities for recreation in this community, and what a great place it is for kids. I am optimistic that the current City Council gets this.

James Withers

Skateboard park needed in Rockford

Skateboard park needed in Rockford


Reading Mr. Blakeslee’s comments about a skateboard park being an ill advised consideration comes as no surprise. He thought the White Pine Trail was ill advised at its inception.

Really, another skateboard park in Rockford? There never really was one.

Even back in the mid 90s, the definition of skateboard park was a “purpose-built recreational environment that may contain half pipes, quarter pipes, spine transfers, handrails, funboxes, vert ramps, pyramids, banked ramps, full pipes, pools, bowls, snake runs, stairsets, and any number of other objects.” I could go on, but why? Rockford Skateboard Park had none of these. Zip, zero, zilch. This was an 80 by 80 piece of flat asphalt. And if I remember correctly, skateboarders were warned, “not to bring anything in the skate park” by the city.

Currently, Michigan has 96 active skateboard parks from Alpena to St. Claire Shores to Benton Harbor to Harbor Springs; some cities larger than Rockford, some smaller. Within these 96 cities, they have found the answers. Most of the 96 communities, if not all, have experienced their problems and have resolved them. Issues not unlike Rockford’s.

As Mr. Blakeslee notes, “there were problems, and next year and the year after that it will be different kids, too.” Nine to fifteen-year-olds showing up year after year? I find that to be an encouraging and vibrant outlook for the Rockford community.

In some aspects any discussion about a skate park is similar to when the White Pine Trail was introduced to Rockford. It was met with hesitation, some not wanting it nor seeing a purpose for the trail. Even when some were explained to that the trail might actually become a destination spot for trail users, skeptics seemed to find that complete fabrication. Frankly, by the time Michigan started their Rails to Trails, many states had trails up and running, end in every case they were an overwhelming success.

The same is true for a well thought out skateboard park. Just ask Traverse City, Midland and Lansing. Those are destination parks as well as many others around the state.

Where to place a park? Vacant Wolverine land. Are you familiar with the Meijer Skate Park in Brighton? It was achieved by fundraising. The city already had the business community fund the city’s first debacle. Good money wasted. That would be a daunting project but not insurmountable. Ninety-six cities found a way.

One of three things need to be done: First, hopefully the city could look like at least they had an idea of what a skate park is really like and stop referring to what was nothing but an 80’ x 80’ slab of asphalt placed at the North Middle School and called by someone at City Hall a “skate park”. Just because you say it’s so doesn’t make it so. Even by City Hall.

Skateboarders looked at the slab and asked, “They did that for us?” Seriously? It’s still an embarrassment and a joke to the skateboarding community.

Second, join in an honest discussion without the decades of smoke and mirror antics that normally go with skateboard park meetings from the city, and finally find someone to seriously discuss the possibility of building the park.

Or, third, finally make known to the community that kids aren’t welcome downtown. Take out those pens and write another new ordinance not allowing children, especially skateboarders, downtown in Rockford city limits without the supervision of their parents. Something the city has seemingly favored for years.

Until a skateboard park becomes a reality, instead of a semi-annual dialogue on such an ill advised venture, skateboarders will still play cat and mouse with the police. They will skateboard where they are not supposed to because there is no place they are allowed to. It’s a ridiculous circle perpetuated by the city. Police chasing kids, this is a waste of money that has been occurring for over a decade. I believe the money could be better spent on improving parks and recreation. Mr. Blakeslee has made it perfectly obvious that Rockford is not in the “parks and recreation” business.

Because of the nature of the skateboarding business and because neither the following nor the participation has decreased, this is a sport that is not going away.

Update on skateboarders from 1997 and 1998 (no names to protect the innocent), but several skateboarders from those years that were always “causing trouble downtown” are currently productive citizens: a mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, eco-system specialist, heating and cooling specialist, and I could happily go on with more great stories about successful young men and women today, who back in ’97 would hide throughout downtown Rockford playing cat and mouse on their skateboards with the police for entertainment.

It is a sport, it is a group, it’s also an age you can experience all the thrills you can dream up and still move the next morning. And as with any sport, any group, there are the troublemakers. But, as with any group, they all deserve respect from the start. It’s just not right, on so many levels, to classify a certain group as trouble over the years. It’s just wrong, and skateboarders over the years in general are immediately looked at as trouble by Rockford.

Over 96 cities in Michigan, with the help of their Mayors, City Councils, City Managers, Police Chiefs, parents and kids, have found a way to co-exist with skateboard parks in their communities.

Rockford has had numerous opportunities in the past decade plus to discuss a skate park. But the real question really seems to be if the city actually would allow kids to have a Class A skate park in a Class A community.

Daryl Busen

Rockford Skate Shop

Back To Bricks unhappy with city welcome

Back To Bricks unhappy with city welcome

I have forwarded some of the emails that were exchanged between Chuck Sekrenes of Back To Bricks and Michael Young.  First and foremost, I would like to say that Rockford is a beautiful city and one that all of the residents should be proud of. But when it comes to hospitality, Rockford severely lacks and I for one put the blame squarely on the city management.

As you can see from the email string, the city management and the chamber did little to promote our arrival in the city.  All of the promotion occurred on the part of the ‘Back to the Bricks’ committee and mostly thru the efforts of Chuck and Nancy Sekrenes.  Several attempts were made to contact your city manager, Michael Young, for interviews and he did not return any of them (email and phone calls).  His lack of professional courtesy was a missed opportunity to promote the city of Rockford to the residents of the eastern half of Michigan.  Furthermore, the lack of local promotion failed the local business community and their chance to make some additional sales on Friday night.  His comment that it is impossible to close the main street of Rockford is humorous in as much as the rest of the tour stops (and those in previous years) have found a way to do so and some of them, such as Cadillac and West Branch, closed state highways (M-31 & M-55).  I think he would have been much more accurate in saying ‘we won’t close the street’!  We have found in the past, downtown main street closures work extremely well and brings the local residents into town resulting in a fairly large positive economic impact on the local economy.

I also found it interesting that Mr. Young thought we should promote Grand Rapids as the ‘beer capital of the U.S.A.’.  Why would we do that?  We were not going to Grand Rapids!  Furthermore, he thought we should promote your Mayor’s micro brewery and the fact that he had hired a band especially for us.  Well guess what? There was a posting on the Mayor’s brewery site that he has live entertainment every Friday night, regardless of whether or not we were there.  It is very unusual that Mr. Young would choose to want to promote alcohol venues in lieu of the fact that our tour is about automobiles.  It must not have occurred to him that alcohol and cars are not a good mix. I would suggest, if he thinks I am wrong, that he ask the Chief of Police of Rockford what his opinion on that matter is and not even knowing him, I think he would agree with me.

Finally, we had ABC12-TV and Cumulus Radio with us on the entire tour. In all of our overnight stops, city officials were interviewed on both TV and radio and were given the opportunity to promote their communities.  The only exception to this was Rockford.  And why did not one representative from the city or chamber of commerce think our arrival was important enough to show up for?  Another missed opportunity to promote your beautiful community.  What’s more, one of the tour registrants is also a member of Michigan’s Travel Commission and was appointed by Governor Synder.  Needless to say he was as dismayed, as were the other 249 visitors, with the reception we received from Rockford.  Many of us commented that it will be sometime (if ever) we return to Rockford and unfortunately, they tell their friends about their experience in Rockford as not being a very welcoming community.

One other thing, Chuck and Nancy Sekrenes went to the city office, to inquire about what happened, at 2:00 PM on Friday afternoon. They asked for Michael Young and was told he was not in.  They then asked for the Mayor and received the same reply, “He’s not in.”  Finally they asked for the Chamber of Commerce director only to hear the same reply, “They are not in!”  Remarkable!  What are the residents of Rockford and the business owners paying for?  Who knows, maybe they get Friday afternoons off!

Once again, I would like to repeat that you have a lovely community and it could have been a great time for all.  I offer my views with the optimism that your community learns from this and does not allow this to happen again and that your city manager, Mr. Michael Young, should learn to be a little more diplomatic in the future when it comes to promoting the city of Rockford.


Al Hatch, Chairman and Founder

Back to the Bricks, Inc.

A 501 (c)(3) IRS recognized non-taxable charitable foundation

Kudos to kudos letter

I grew up in an “oil patch” and have worked in the oil and gas industry for 35+ years. I’ve witnessed the remarkable innovations in safety and technology the industry has made during that time. People always say “you [as an industry] don’t do a very good job of telling your story.” Regrettably, we can’t even SELL our story to the mainstream media. Or as I have said for years, apparently to the mainstream media, “good news is no news.” There’s no balance to the ever-growing (ever-changing) fear-mongering of so-called “environmentalists.” The industry has successfully met every demand they have made, and yet they continue to demand more. (And drive to the meetings in their gas-guzzling SUVs, wearing their Patagonia jackets, vinyl hiking boots and nylon backpacks – all made from oil). What a gang of hypocrites. Thank you for helping to get the word out, Robert. I plan to forward your article to a number of people – in the industry and outside – that I know will be encouraged by it.

Carla Wilson

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