Although Alex Colson was several years older than 16-year-old Cameron Jones, the two bonded over skateboarding and would meet up every day after school, skating until dark.

Jones, a New Albany High School junior, said his friend was the "most caring person in the world" and a mentor to others.

Colson, a 2014 New Albany graduate and Gahanna resident, died at age 22 on Aug. 24 after falling off a cliff in Hocking Hills. His mother, Cindy Colson, said he had been camping there when he fell accidentally while hiking.

Now Jones and others who knew Alex Colson have come together to build a skate park in his memory.

Jones' mother, Karyn Hasler, and Alex's older brother, 34-year-old Justin Colson, cofounded the Alex Colson Skate Park Committee, which, Hasler said, has about 40 members who primarily are students, along with some parents.

Hasler said the committee wants to raise $500,000 within two or three years for the skate park in or near New Albany.

"We understand that this is a long-term commitment," she said.

Although Justin Colson never skated -- aside from inline skates in the 1990s -- the Westerville resident said skateboarding gives individuals goals and is relatively inexpensive. Because of that, skating is a "melting pot of personalities," he said.

"And they (enthusiasts) create a new family amongst themselves, where they push each other to do better and learn new tricks," he said.

The park would provide a safe place for youths to skate, Justin Colson said.

In addition to skateboarding, the park could be used for inline skating, scooters, BMX biking and WCMX, which is wheelchair skateboarding, Hasler said.

New Albany would be the committee's ideal location for the park, Hasler said, but Columbus, Gahanna or Westerville are other options.

"Whatever city decides to work with us, I think, will be lucky," she said.

New Albany spokesman Scott McAfee said the city is aware of the committee's plan.

Like McAfee, Dave Wharton, director of the New Albany Parks and Recreation Department, said he is aware of the committee's desire to build a skate park and has met with one of the committee members.

The skate-park committee is working with the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Franklin County, Hasler said. In this way, donations made will be tax-deductible, she said.

NAMI executive director Rachelle Martin said the organization is serving as the committee's fiduciary.

The committee has raised about $600 thus far from sales of stickers made from Colson's drawings -- he was an aspiring artist who gravitated toward graffiti-style drawings -- and a donation from his family, Hasler said.

The group also is exploring other methods of fundraising.

Hasler said the committee would hold fundraisers on a monthly basis. The committee has tie-dye shirts with Colson's designs printed on them, and it also is placing donation jars at local businesses, she said.

The group's Facebook and Instagram handles are @acskatepark, and donation jars may be obtained by calling or texting Hasler at 614-395-7482.

Interest in building a skate park existed before Colson's death, Hasler said.

Hasler said various people have wanted a skate park in New Albany for at least five years. Online petitions had been started a couple of times, but nothing came of them, she said.

Right now, she said, skateboarders use the streets.

Jones and his friend, New Albany senior Mitchell Neff, 17, said they primarily skate at the high school or on a street.

Hasler said she had been fined twice by her homeowners association for her son skateboarding in the streets.

Although other parts of central Ohio have skate parks, many skateboarders are not old enough to drive, Hasler said.

"Skateboarding is mainstream now," she said.

About Alex

Cindy Colson said Alex had skated since he was about 7 years old.

That wasn't his only skill.

She said Alex was like a therapist, despite having some anxiety issues himself.

"He made people feel comfortable," she said.

Cindy Colson described Alex as a compassionate free spirit, and he lived "each day for every moment."

A skate park built in his honor, she said, would make him proud, though he was never one to boast.

She and Alex's father, Craig Colson, also are members of the skate-park committee.

Craig Colson said establishing a park would be a wonderful tribute to his son, a laid-back "old soul" who liked classic rock bands like the Doors and Led Zeppelin.

His friends held him in high esteem, too, Craig Colson said. As many as 400 people attended a celebration of Alex's life that was held a week after his death, he said.

"He had an amazing personality," Craig Colson said.

Justin Colson said he finds coping with his brother's death easier because he knows how many people he influenced.

Alex lived a full life, he said, despite living only to 22.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah