New park to honor local hero in Columbus

Columbus Bike Pike

Ian Qualls and his mom Katy


The memories of his grandparents are one of many places where Columbus, Kansas hero Ian Qualls lives on.

Qualls died of smoke inhalation following a 2015 house fire in Oswego where he was staying as a guest. The young man made it down to the home’s first floor, but turned around when he heard his friend’s blind mother screaming for help

“Ian thought of other people, all the time. And he was always trying to help someone. And his mama and he were very close, and his mom gave him those advantages,” said Sherry Riddle, Ian’s grandmother.

Ian’s hometown will soon host a tribute to the teen that reflects one of his passions: a new all wheels bike and skate park.

A donation from the Qualls family got the ball rolling, and with the help of the Columbus city council, more donors were found to make the park a reality. That includes donated labor from American Ramp Company of Joplin, and $20,000 from the city of Columbus itself.

“It is going to be one of Columbus’s many attractions with more to come. We really want to bring people to the city of Columbus,” said City Administrator Daniela Rivas.

And while the park is sure to attract new bikers and skaters, it will give the ones who knew Ian Qualls the chance to to teach newcomers about a local hero.

“I know that in Columbus, Ian and his friends had to travel a little ways to get to the skate park, wherever it was. But that is something he loved to do, and his friends loved to do, so I know that if he’s looking down and seeing this, it is really making him proud,” said Sherry.

Ian Qualls was not the only victim of that 2015 Oswego fire. 71-year old Charlene Sinclair and her daughter, 49-year-old Martha Clower also lost their lives.

The Columbus city council will decide on the name of the city’s new bike and skate park at their January sixth meeting.