JACKSON, WY—A simple typographical error in a proposal to set aside a scenic Big Horn Mountain valley for public recreation has resulted in the construction of the 10,020-acre Henrietta Bedford Memorial Skate Park, Wyoming Department of Natural Resources officials announced Tuesday.
"I am pleased to dedicate Wyoming's new skate park," said baffled Wyoming Parks Department supervisor William DuBois, reading from a prepared statement. "This skateboarding park honors the memory of Miss Henrietta Bedford, a leading Wyoming conservationist, physician, and women's-suffrage activist—a woman who knew the importance of nature to the radical and the sick."
DuBois then assisted Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal in cutting a ribbon stretched across the park's 22-foot-deep, mile-long half-pipe, the largest ever installed in a state-run outdoor recreation facility.
Park officials said the typo went undetected, as it was a minor rider to the "Healthy Forests Initiative," which granted timber companies greater access to public forests.
By the time the error was identified, state officials had already spent $43 million integrating the skate park's numerous ramps, rails, pipes, and inclines into the natural topography of the Absaroka Range. After some deliberation, park officials voted to complete the skate park.
"No, it might not have otherwise occurred to me to build a grind rail running the length of Mount Logan's East Ridge," Wyoming Department of Natural Resources director James Hester said. "Nor would I have recognized the scree moraines on the south face of the Absarokas as the perfect foundation for a system of interlocking skate bowls. And I'm as surprised as anyone to see the waters of the Shoshone River running through a system of concrete half-pipes. However, the Wyoming Division of Cultural Resources, in partnership with the United States Department of Natural Resources, made a commitment, and we honor our commitments."
Additional features of the park include a system of high-curbs and railings to replicate the natural environment of street skaters, a goofy-footed stalefish estuary on the banks of the Laramie River, and a 120-acre migration habitat intended to draw the graceful yet elusive Tony Hawk.
Although construction of the skate park has been roundly criticized by environmental groups and the majority of Wyoming's citizens, the park has found supporters in the "extreme sporting" community.
"Without question, this is a big step in the right direction for the state of Wyoming," said Thrasher magazine editor Jake Phelps, who praised the move from his San Francisco office. "Although I hear the park is heavily biased towards vert with only a few street elements, I think it's a start. I hope other states will follow the precedent set by Gov. Freudenthal and consider creating ideal environments for ripping wicked fakies."
Added Phelps: "Wyoming isn't that weak-beer state, is it? Oh, no, that's Utah? Razor."
Perhaps attempting to make the best of the gaffe, Wyoming Game and Fish Department director Terry Cleveland said he sees the skate park as a positive addition to the Wyoming landscape.
"We'll be attracting a segment of the population that might never have visited our state's spectacular public wildlife areas before," Cleveland said. "The debate on public land use has always been one of preservation versus access. In this case, we chose access. I only hope people keep an open mind about our decision to allow citizens the freedom to shred."