City council to consider closing skate park again
By Tara Nelson
After mounting problems of vandalism and maintenance issues, the city of Blaine may be forced to close the Blaine Skate Park once again.
In their regular meeting Monday, Blaine City Council reviewed a recent parks and recreation committee recommendation to remove most of the skate park’s aging plywood ramps that pose possible safety hazards to users.
Rather than making a decision, however, the council postponed their vote to allow for a town hall meeting later in January to allow the public time to speak on the issue.
The city had closed the skate park before for vandalism in April, 2007, after an individual threw an object through the window of a parked SUV.
Police said it was not clear if the individual was a user of the park.
Following that closure, parents and youth rallied at subsequent council meetings pledging to clean up the park and make sure such problems don’t reoccur.
Volunteers and parents bought several cans of spray paint to cover graffiti, as well as a 25-gallon bucket of coated ceramic deck screws to tighten deck surfaces. Several users of the park, meanwhile, said they were enthusiastic at the new relationship forged with city officials.
But nearly two years later, the park continues to deteriorate and vandalism continues to be a problem.
And while the concrete structure supporting the ramps appears structurally intact, the ramps were constructed with a mix of treated and untreated lumber as well as OSB plywood. City officials say that while this provided for lower up-front costs, the life cycle of those materials is much shorter and are in dire need of replacement.
Blaine planner Alex Wenger said the city agreed to provide the land for the site with the understanding that the Extreme Sports Club would manage and maintain the facility. On November 14, 2003, the city and the Whole Town Team, Inc. signed a lease that secured the land for the skateboard park for a period ending November 15, 2013.
For the first few years the park was maintained through the combined efforts of volunteers, youth, and the city. However, during the last few years, the Extreme Sports Club has disbanded and the city has been required to increasingly take over operation and maintenance responsibilities.
“No one is carrying the torch,” Wenger said.
He added that some of the siding on the ramps was constructed using OSB plywood, which has now rotted and may encourage more vandalism.
Council member Jason Overstreet said he did not support any future funding from the city and instead thought the money should come from the private sector.
“I think the city has done enough to donate that land. Let another group keep it clean and provide the insurance and raise the money to keep it going,” he said.
Overstreet added that although he could empathize with park users because he was a skateboarder in his younger years, he said “a portion of those folks lean toward that sort of behavior.”
“It’s not a large group of them, but unfortunately, they ruin it for everyone else,” he said.
Some, however, such as Andrew Ryser, a Blaine resident and former president of the club, say another problem is the lack of supervision and parents using the park as a de facto day care.
Ryser told council members last year that parents need to take a more pro-active approach to their children’s activities rather than using the park in place of a child sitter.
“Little League parents are out watching their children play baseball but here the kids just get dropped off,” he said.
Council member Charlie Hawkins echoed those sentiments in Monday’s meeting. Hawkins said he thought it was unfair that the needs of a particular segment of Blaine youth were being dismissed.
“I thought we were a community, and as a community, it’s our job to deal with people that are a part of us,” he said. “I agree we should remove the dangerous and rotting equipment, but is it our job to shove them off to the side or is it to include them in what we do?”
Council member Paul Greenough agreed, adding that removing dangerous equipment was only the first step to creating another opportunity for Blaine youth.
“This town offers too few opportunities for people like me or not like me to do things,” he said. “Those kids who have nothing to do will find something to do. Perhaps a skate park is a better alternative.”
Greenough said he would like to look into finding available grants or matching funds.
“I don’t think it would cost a lot to do just a minimal skate park,” he said.
In the meantime, Blaine community development director Terry Galvin said he recommended removing all wood structures and dangerous fixtures and consider closing the park until officials can chart a better long-term solution.
“I know they want something more permanent but this could be more permanent if they would fund steady maintenance,” he said.
Bonnie Onyon said she agreed but favored installing a series of inexpensive steel rails so that skateboarding youth are not completely disenfranchised from extracurricular activites.
The council has scheduled a public hearing for January to discuss the issue.
For more information, call Blaine city hall at 332-8311.