Chesney Park neighborhood looking to attract youth

Jennifer Loucks

Four years ago, after finding out that excess funds were available, the Chesney Park Neighborhood Improvement Association a city program, began to explore possible ideas for improving the neighborhood, said vice president Tom Benaka. The group decided that the most effective way to find out what the area really needed was to do a Chesney area public survey.

Chesney Park NIA members went door-to-door from 17th to 21st Streets, and from the Kansas Expo Center to Washburn University, asking children what they would like to see most. The surveyors collected a unanimous vote for a skate park, Benaka said.

A piece of land where two tennis courts sat idle became the perfect place for this new park. The NIA applied for the Neighborhood Empowerment Grant from the city of Topeka, and on May 29, 2007, a budget of $28,310.81 was awarded to them.

“The Chesney Park NIA decided that in order to make this project a success, we would need to get as many children involved as possible in the designing stage,” said Benaka. “Therefore, the neighborhood kids were asked to draw up their own ideas of the perfect skate park.”

As summer of 2008 approached, the construction of the Chesney Skate Park, based on this input, came to an end. The complete stage includes two bank ramps, two quarter pipes, one grind box, one grind ledge, one wedge-flat-wedge, one jump box, two kinked grind rails and one Euro gap.

On any given day, neighborhood children are kick-flipping and grinding, and there is still more to come to the Chesney Skate Park.

“The kids would like a half-pipe and maybe some stairs,” said Benaka.

Will the skate park be expanded? Frank Hogue, a long-standing member of the Chesney Park NIA, said, “We’re looking for the money, and if we find it, we’ll continue building.” Hogue added, “We are looking at the possibility of making half of this park a soccer area.”

This area is not just for neighborhood children.

“Chesney Skate Park gathers more than just skateboarders; bikes and spectators gather as well because this has become a community gathering space,” said Benaka. “Anyone and everyone is welcome to come.”

Chesney Park also has children’s play equipment, park benches and picnic tables, a basketball court, and spacious fields as well.