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Andy Rodriguez vividly remembers taking school field trips to the Ford manufacturing plant during his childhood in St. Paul. 

"It was just one big concrete structure of epic proportions," Rodriguez, now the city's Parks and Recreation Director, recalls. 

“There weren’t really trees, there was no public access, there were no public amenities — so this neighborhood along the river had a concrete pad," remembers Melanie McMahon, the mayor's executive project lead for redevelopment.

Earlier this month, the city opened the first of four public parks being carved into the once concrete-covered landscape in St. Paul's Highland Park neighborhood. A second park is set to open at the 122-acre mixed-used Highland Bridge redevelopment later this summer. 

The first, named Gateway Park, features a linear skatepark where skaters can try their moves on a trail-style path dotted with ramps, rails and other structures, including a concrete bowl for more experienced skaters.  

“The timing of opening this park really aligns with the interest in skateboarding in general right now," Rodriguez said. "It couldn't have been better timing." 

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The park is open to skaters of all ages and abilities and features new, tree-lined walking trails alongside the skate trail. Over 1,000 trees are set to be planted throughout the span of the entire Highland Bridge redevelopment. 

“The city and neighborhood can reconnect to the river in a way that we just weren’t able to before," McMahon said. 

Rodriguez said sand volleyball courts, outdoor fitness equipment, a community garden and the city's first dedicated pickleball courts are some of the other amenities in store to complement the skate park. 

Uŋči Makȟa Park on the redevelopment's southern end will open later this summer. 

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