Gainous Lends a Helping Hand(Plant)

By on April 11, 2011

By Aaron Williams

Dr. Jason Gainous is known around the University of Louisville as a political science professor who teaches courses such as Public Opinion, American Government, and Internet and Politics. However, those who have taken classes with Gainous realize that he is not the average college professor. Gainous is also a skateboarder with a love for the sport and 30 years of experience under his belt. So when the Louisville skateboarding community was suffering from graffiti, broken equipment and trash buildup at the Louisville Extreme Park, Gainous stepped in and added community activist to his repertoire.

Located on Franklin Street in downtown Louisville, the Louisville Extreme Park is a skate park owned by Louisville Metro Government and operated by Metro Parks. The park opened in 2002, and has been host to events such as the Tony Hawk Gigantic Skatepark Tour. But it has also had to face temporary closings due to graffiti and trash. To help the city of Louisville with these issues, and to keep the park open for local skaters, Gainous and his team of colleagues adopted the park through the city’s Adopt-A-Park program. The group includes a computer software engineer, a writer for The Skateboard Mag, and an environmental scientist at U of L. The team will now be responsible for keeping the park clean, safe and in good repair.

“The Adopt-A-Park program is designed to get corporate citizens, neighborhood groups, schools, and other community organizations involved in preserving and enhancing the community’s 124 parks,” reads the Metro Parks website.

Dave Skidmore is a member of Gainous’ group of colleagues who adopted the park. He is the manager of eastern sales for Rockwell-Collins, a company that sells aircraft parts to the military. Skidmore said that he approached the city with the idea of cleaning up Louisville Extreme Park a year ago, but the idea didn’t go anywhere.

“For me, personally, the skate park has kind of been a place for me to have some community here in Louisville, outside of work,” said Skidmore.

Skidmore referenced a report from The Courier-Journal that claimed the city of Louisville spent thousands of dollars cleaning up the park after different events.

“We could never substantiate the reports,” said Skidmore. “But we were bummed at how much money the city was spending to clean it up.”

According to Skidmore, it took Gainous stepping in and getting the proposal to the right people to make the plan a reality.

“When I initially got the thing going, my neighbor – who is a contract negotiator for the Food and Beverage Labor Union – got me a meeting, along with a lobbyist for that union,” said Gainous. “And when I went in I wanted to be credible, because I was trying to come in and get something from them for us, which was to fix some of the stuff at the park. So I thought, ‘They’re going to think we’re a bunch of hooligans. So I’m going to try and bring in people who are credible.’ And so that’s what we did.”

Gainous succeeded in getting a meeting with Marty Storch, assistant director of operations for Metro Parks. According to Gainous, Storch suggested they adopt the park. Gainous offered to remove future graffiti in order to prevent the park from temporarily being closed down.

“We have paint stored down there,” said Gainous. “And any time graffiti goes up on any of the bathrooms or on the wooden vertical ramp structure, we just paint over it. And they provide the paint for us. We just provide the labor.”

Storch was unavailable for comment. However, Gainous is pleased with his relationship with the administration of Metro Parks.

“They’ve been great,” said Gainous. “I can tell you that right now. I have zero bad words to say about the administration at Metro Parks. Everybody that I have met there has been fantastic. They have been absolutely great about working with us. Which I think, initially, they didn’t know what to expect because we’re skateboarders and skateboarders can get a bad rep. And I don’t think they expected a professor with a Ph.D. showing up to deal with this.”

Gainous and his colleagues, who adopted in the park in late December of 2010, have already made an impact on the skate park.

Asa Ernspiker, a patron of the Louisville Extreme Park, has taken notice of Gainous and his work.

“Yeah, he’s setting real good examples, keeping it clean,” said Ernspiker. “Maybe some of us will start keeping it clean just like him or something.”

Ernspiker believes that keeping the skate park open is essential to the skating community of Louisville.

“It’s real important,” said Ernspiker. “It keeps us skating, off the streets and getting in trouble by the cops.”

Gainous’ team is currently planning to meet with city carpenters to see about repairing the park’s vertical ramp. He has already raised money from local businesses, such as Papalinos NY Pizzeria and Home Skateshop, as well as contributions from the city of Louisville, who he said will be paying for all the labor. Gainous plans to keep cleaning and repairing the park indefinitely. His long term goal is simple.

“What we’re hoping is that people, college age and older, will start picking up as everyone sees us doing this and that everyone just kind of joins in and takes part when you’re down there,” said Gainous. “If you see some trash, you pick it up. A lot of the younger kids, they’ll look at the older guys they may admire. And as they look and see people that they admire doing this kind of stuff, maybe it’ll make them think it’s important as well.”

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