Eagle Scout project gives skaters a place to land

A new skate park opens in Winamac. (Photo Courtesy: Pharos-Tribune)
A new skate park opens in Winamac. (Photo Courtesy: Pharos-Tribune)

WINAMAC, Ind. (AP) — When Clark Gudas learns a new trick on his skateboard, after countless attempts and painful falls, the result is an undeniable sense of fulfillment.

“The feeling you get when you finally land something you’ve been working on for a long time — the satisfaction of knowing you finally got it — it’s rewarding,” he told the Pharos-Tribune.

The Winamac High School senior just landed his latest trick that’s been about three years and tens of thousands of dollars in the making: completing a venue for skateboarders to excel at the sport right in his hometown.

Winamac Skatepark in the town’s Rhinehart Park is now open. What started as an idea Gudas got while skateboarding with friends in his driveway went on to be approved by the local town council and became his path to achieving the Boy Scouts of America’s highest honor.

The park offers 3,000 square feet of concrete ramps, rails and quarter pipes.

“It’s an adrenaline rush,” Gudas said.

When asked how it felt now that his Eagle Scout project was all finally accomplished, Gudas used a term popular among those in extreme sports.

“It was just awesome,” he said. “After years and years of work and not being sure if it would all come together, watching it all come together was awesome.”

He said others in the community feel similarly.

“Everybody loves it,” he said. “The community loves it — even people who don’t use it or couldn’t use it know it’s a great thing for the community. It’s a great thing that gets kids active and gets them outdoors.”

None of it would have been possible without overcoming challenges along the way like those posed by Gudas’ busy schedule. He plays soccer and performs in choir, pep band and a band with his friends. He left track and his part-time job in his earlier high school years in order to focus more on the project.

“It hasn’t been easy,” he said. “There’s been a lot of sacrifices that I really didn’t want to make.”

The support he received from his mother, Louise Gudas, made it easier, he continued.

“Thankfully, when I really didn’t want to do something, my mom was there to push me,” he said, adding that she would help him split the big parts of the project into smaller tasks so it wouldn’t be so overwhelming.

The biggest challenge of creating the $57,000 attraction was raising the funds, he said, which came in the form of donations, fundraisers and grants.

One $7,500 contribution came from the Tony Hawk Foundation, started by one of the legends of the sport to help fund skate parks across the U.S. Gudas said it helped a lot.

“I was pretty excited because we were running out of time and we were worried about getting all the cash,” Gudas said. “Then we heard we got this grant and it made me feel really calmed down because I knew it would be a lot easier to raise the rest of the money.”

Hunger Skateparks out of Bloomington was hired to build the park.

“They understood we were on a budget and willing to work with that,” Gudas said. “They’re pretty cool. They were really open to ideas. They had a blueprint but weren’t afraid to change it if they saw something that could be better if they had extra room to work with.”

Friends helped clear the topsoil for the ramps and rails earlier this summer. Hunger Skateparks got started in July, applying wooden frames, pouring and smoothing concrete for the ramps and doing metalwork on the rails.

Winamac Skatepark is free to use from sunrise to sunset for those on skateboards, inline skates and roller skates, but not bicycles or scooters. Gudas said the only other rules are to wear helmets and be respectful to others.

His still has some more paperwork to do and a board of review to take part in before his Eagle Scout ceremony officially presents him with the honor.

It’s been an endeavor Gudas has been working toward since he was in the sixth grade.

“My entire middle and high school years I’ve been working up to this and it’s just awesome to finally be there,” he said.

Gudas agreed the worlds of Boy Scouts and skateboarders likely clash in the perceptions of many. A lot of people probably don’t associate the khaki-uniformed teens upholding values like trustworthiness, obedience and cleanliness with those mired by stereotypes of rebellion and apathy.

He said some community members opposed the skate park for that very reason, but he hopes his involvement in it all will help shatter those prejudices.

“I skate and I’m a good person, I like to think,” Gudas said. “Hopefully it will bring a good cross section and people will realize what a great sport it is.”

When asked how much longer it will be before Boy Scouts will have the opportunity to pursue a skateboarding merit badge, his answer is optimistic.

“Hopefully sometime soon,” he said. “Hopefully before I get my Eagle Scout — that’d be pretty sweet.”

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