Council approves proposed skate park

Published on Thu, Oct 25, 2001 by Meg Olson

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Council approves proposed skate park

By Meg Olson

“Our council meeting tonight has been taken over,” commented Blaine mayor Dieter Schugt looking over a council chamber packed with Blaine young people, parents and other supporters of a skate park behind the library.

A crowd of over 50 came to the October 22 city council meeting to show support for the proposal by the non-profit group, Blaine Extreme Sports, working under the umbrella of the Whole Town Team. “The goal is to provide a safe place for youth to skate as well as give them a solid beginning in their sport,” said Blaine police officer Jon Landis, out of uniform as the liaison with the city for the group.

The proposal would allow the group to lease the area adjacent to the parking lot behind the library to build a 56 by 116-foot park for skateboarders, inline skaters and BMX bike riders to use. A sunken concrete base surrounded by a three-foot retaining wall would support wood and metal ramps with a special covering to improve wear and skateability. Landis explained the wood/metal design was chosen over permanent concrete ramps due to the lower cost flexibility to change the ramp to offer more variety. “Sometimes in concrete parks kids kind of get bored,” he said.

A combination of fundraising and grants would pay for construction of the $50,000 facility. Landis explained the group would not ask for financial support from the city. Ongoing fundraising would pay for maintenance of the park and further improvements such as lighting, drinking fountains and restrooms. Portable restrooms would be used until permanent ones could be built.

Landis said the site was chosen because of its central location, proximity to the police station, library and school, and distance from major streets. “We went through the city of Blaine and found this was the ideal place,” he said. “I can’t think of a better place and it’s in your hands.”

The Blaine Extreme Sports club boasts over 100 members and was born of persistent efforts by local youth to build a skate park. Of the 239 people surveyed by the group, most between 11 and 15, almost all said they would use a skate park in Blaine and 70 percent said they traveled to other cities to use a skate park. Landis pointed out building the skate park did more than keep youth off the street – it could draw business into Blaine.

The project has the support of local educators and business owners as well as young people who would use the park. “The interest, commitment and enthusiasm I have seen amongst Blaine youth in creating a skate park is something to be captured,” wrote Blaine school drug and alcohol prevention counselor Kirke Mahy Hestad in a letter of support for the project.

“The dilemma we face is the lack of a safe area for our youth to practice their sports,” Landis said. “The attitude towards these sports is typically negative and they are illegal in the majority of places in town.” Landis added the only skating deaths he knew of involved motor vehicles. Getting skaters out of traffic and into a monitored environment that encouraged proper safety gear would increase safety.

Miles Ervin, a long-time proponent of the project, said skateboarding today put young people in conflict with police, business owners and pedestrians. “It’s a problem that can be resolved by building this skate park,” he said.

Most of council’s questions were answered in the 25-page proposal the group handed out, including plans of the park, conduct rules for users, and the section of state law that holds the city, as the landowner, free from liability at the free use-at-your-own-risk park. “This is a project young people in our community have constantly been in to talk about, asking us how can we help to do this,” said city manager Gary Tomsic. “They’re now on the verge of coming up with an excellent idea.”

Council members gave their unanimous support to the project and directed Tomsic to bring lease proposals forward and get a conditional use process in motion that would solicit additional public input on the proposal. “This is a great idea,” said John Liebert. “I hope it flies, or rolls.”

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