City officials, youth, grapple over Blaine skate park’s future
By Tara Nelson
In a meeting where emotions ran high, all sides seemed to agree on one thing: Blaine’s skate park is a valuable asset to youth who may not otherwise participate in competitive sports.
Blaine’s skateboarding youth – some of whom were not so young, such as Inversion Skate shop owner Brian Novak, who had recently returned from duty in Iraq – as well as parents and other community members, showed up to passionately advocate for a safe and legal place for youth to skate other than the curbs in the Cost Cutter parking lot.
But enthusiasm aside, officials were left to deal with the realities and liabilities of owning, maintaining, or even contributing to a skate park located on city property. And they were left mostly without answers.
Council member Scott Dodd said he wanted Blaine’s skateboarding youth to form an organization that could be held responsible for maintaining the park.
“I know when you watch TV you see the government writing checks, but that’s not the case here,” Dodd said. “And while I support this, I don’t want to just give you everything, either. I want to see accountability.”
John Liebert, meanwhile, suggested charging youth a user fee and Birch Bay resident Patrick Alesse suggested a possible levy.
Several audience members such as local developer Doug Connelly, however, disagreed. Connelly, who contributed largely to initial efforts to get the park running, said the city already offers too little for younger generations to do.
“They’ve paid for other parks, roads and services around the city,” Connelly said. “We pay taxes to fund the parks department and we should pay for this park, too. The kids shouldn’t have to pay for that themselves.”
Neither the city of Blaine nor its parks board had budgeted for maintenance because the park was founded with the understanding it would be kept up by the now-disbanded Blaine Extreme Sports Club.
NW Parks and Recreation District 2 commissioner Terry Johnston, said there could still be time for youth to make a proposal to that district for funding in the next budget cycle.
“There’s still time,” Johnston said. “The master plan isn’t done yet but you need to show up at our meetings and voice your opinion. So get on it!”
Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic said the council will again discuss the issue in their next regularly scheduled meeting on January 26 but have not yet decided when to take action.