Cries of "Board!" rang out from the beginner class at Burnsville Skate Park.
It's skate park etiquette, the young students learned, to call the warning when your skateboard escapes out from under you and flies across the concrete. The kids were also instructed on another rule: No "butt-boarding," that is, no sitting down on your board.
Beyond that, the rules were few, and the kids who showed up at Burnsville's first skateboard camp were happy to comply. They were focused on learning the basics — how to set up their stance, push off, do "tic tacs" (zigzag back and forth to get going), turn and other basic skills.
Their instructors cheered them on.
"Love the energy, buddy!" Instructor Eric Lewy, of Lakeville, said to one kid. "So awesome!"
Lewy, who has been teaching for five years at other area skate parks, thought Burnsville's first clinic went well.
"No Band-Aids," he said. "No one cried."
"It was great," said Ben Wistreill, 8, of Eagan. "I liked working on my tricks."
Wistreill had been practicing in his driveway on a board he and his dad found dumpster diving in south Minneapolis.
"Just, like, seeing the kids progress is the best part," said Lewy. "All it takes is just someone older than him telling him he can do it."
Shawn Solem, owner of Zombie Boardshop, and other instructors are leading the clinics, camp and classes this summer, the first to be offered in Burnsville. Two sets of beginners' clinics run on Saturdays in May, and older kids can attend a four-day camp where they bus around to various skate parks in the cities. During Wednesday night sessions in June, kids can learn more advanced tricks.
Instructor Malik Jones, of Lakeville, who has been coming to the park since he was 12 and now competes around the country, said it "feels way awesome" to be teaching.
"They looked shocked and awed by everything we do," he said. "They just want to do everything."
Park upgrades planned
Zombie Boardshop is donating the program instruction, so all the proceeds from the summer programs go toward further development of the skate park. The first phase of renovation occurred in 2012, creating a triangle of concrete with ramps, rails and grind boxes.
Solem, the shop owner, said more kids have been skating — and sticking with it — since improvements were made.
"This park was just a dump before this got built," said Solem. "Now people are actually skating here."
According to Burnsville Recreation Facilities Manager Dean Mulso, about 20-30 kids visit the park on nice days.
The second phase of expansion would add space and challenging features, such as a set of stairs and a large bowl area.
"We do get a lot of feedback," said Mulso. "They want it to be more challenging."
Solem said few parks in the metro area have both bowl and street skating features.
He hopes this summer's classes help to raise awareness about expansion plans, which have stalled due to a funding shortfall.
More money needed
Mulso said the initial goal was a $250,000 expansion. The city has earmarked $125,000 in the capital improvement budget for the skate park expansion, and local service organizations and businesses have contributed $61,000.
Mulso and Solem said it has been difficult to get park users to serve on a skate park committee. Solem said that while dozens of park users initially expressed interest in serving, interest waned. He and a couple others have remained core committee members, and they've organized several fundraising events and plan to do more this summer.
Mulso said he's planning to schedule a public meeting in June when the city starts to plan its 2016 budget.
"Now that it's spring again, there's been a lot more interest," said Solem, noting postings he's seen on social media. "Hopefully, kids will show up to the meeting."
Mulso said they want to get more feedback on what users want and will discuss whether the expansion should be pushed from 2016 to 2017.
Whatever the expansion plans, if all goes well with the classes, Solem said, they should continue.
"If attendance is good and parents are hyped, we're going to do more in the fall," he said.
Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer. Her e-mail is email@example.com.