Goodbye, Hawk Island Snow Park?

Hawk Island Snow Park’s future is up in the air after its second full season of operation as the first public “urban snow park” featuring a freestyle terrain park and a sledding/tubing hill.

Riding Hawk Island Snow Park, April 17, 2014

Riding Hawk Island Snow Park, April 17, 2014

County Terminates Contract with Gateway Parks

Resolution 14-137 adopted by Ingham County on March 25, 2014 terminates the contract, citing other reasons, including failure to supply a marketing plan, provide lessons or training, and inadequate customer service for season pass sales. Willis Bennett, Inham County’s parks director, has also cited “unacceptable behavior from the contractor (Gateway Parks)”, including failure to respond to concerns about the park’s maintenance and visitation rates over the past two seasons. According to Bennett, “Now is the time to end this relationship.”

A gateway employee who prefers to remain anonymous says that while it’s unfortunate they have to part ways with the Hawk Island, “It has been a learning experience for all and they have enjoyed working with Ingham County on bringing this previously untested concept to life.”

I personally find the “maintenance” issues laughable: the park itself was consistently maintained, as well or better than any other terrain park in the state. Their use of social media and engagement is off the charts, with almost 4,000 likes on Facebook and hundreds of videos on Vimeo and pictures on Instagram. Further, Gateway confirms that visitation rates were up 20% this season, despite getting a late start due to maintenance issues with the County-owned snow-making system and pumps, which failure basically “canceled the marketing plans” in order to focus solely on opening.

Will Hawk Island Snow Park Reopen in 2014?

In an email exchange earlier this week, Mr. Bennett optimistically reaffirmed the County’s intention to re-open the Snow Park for 2014-2015:

We are currently reviewing our options for next year, we will definitely be open for business next winter. We are looking at several possibilities at this point that could include a different vendor or just a product in-house. It is still too early to make a determination as we want to make sure we have investigated all of the possibilities.

However, Ingham County neither employs the crew, nor owns any of the equipment necessary to operate a snow park, including all of the rails, a $140K magic carpet lift, and a $240k groomer, etc., so terminating the contract with Gateway puts the future of Hawk Island Snow Park in jeopardy.

Gateway Parks’ Future in Michigan

Gateway Parks is still committed to “promoting snowboarding in mid-Michigan and the Lansing area” in particular. In the near term they are looking for another facility, more centrally located and with easier access than the one at Hawk Island.

They are capable of opening facilities in as little as two weeks (Eagle, ID this past winter) so even though the future may look bleak, according to sources, Tim Windell is committed to “bringing Windell’s snowboard camps to Lansing”.

And I’m OK with that.

Hawk Island’s Impact on Michigan Scene

Sure, it is only 86 vertical feet with a single rope tow, but it’s been a huge part of the scene for the past two year. Pretty much every crew has stacked footage there (some featured below) for good reason: it’s a great park maintained by a great group of guys who always keep the features fresh and dialed. If it’s gone, it will be sorely missed. If they do re-open, it will be a tall order to live up to the excellence we’ve come to expect. For now it is too early to speculate, but I hope it’s not “Goodbye”.

Featured Hawk Island Videos

Hawk Island Snow Park was featured prominently in Spencer Whiteman’s Bliss 3, which made the rounds on social media eventually landing a spot on Snowboarder Mag earlier this week. Early this season, a crew from Mervin Mfg. made a weekend stop to promote Gateway Parks, tearing up Hawk Island along the way. Super cool to ride with those guys and girls.

Part of the crew from Mervin Mfg., with me (right)

Brandon x2, Jesse, Ted and me (right).

Here’s their edit: Evan Erickson and the Mullet Chicken crew made an appearance, too: Or going way back to last winter, Tyler May put together a series of homies edits, like this one:


3 thoughts on “Goodbye, Hawk Island Snow Park?

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