Public money for new skate park pulled
By Chris Busby
The city’s $9.5 million borrowing plan originally included $25,000 for design of a new skate park — the current one on Marginal Way is cramped, old and in the way of development plans for Bayside. At the Nov. 21 Portland City Council meeting, that funding was removed before the plan was approved by councilors. The $25,000 will instead go toward street paving projects.
Efforts to find a site suitable for a new skate park continue. Until a site is found and some preliminary design work is done, funding for the project is on hold.
C ity Parks and Recreation Director Denise Clavette has been working on the skate-park project with the city’s Youth Advisory Council, as well various freestyle skateboard, BMX and rollerblade enthusiasts, for several months. The group identified two site that later proved unfeasible, and has done some basic work to determine what the new park should be like.
Clavette said Forum Park cost a total of $15,000 to build. Of the two general park designs her working group has come up with thus far, one would cost between $250,000 and $300,000, the other in the neighborhood of $75,000 to $100,000. The costlier option involves a below-ground concrete bowl; the less expensive option would be an expanded version of the current park, with more obstacles and ramps, a smoother surface and more room to move.
Clavette said the type of materials used in skate parks today, and the need for more space, are factors in the higher cost.
Eli Cayer, a member of the working group, was disappointed to hear city funding was likely to be axed, but not surprised. “I wasn’t expecting it to be [included],” he said. “That the city is going to raise any money is cool enough, but the biggest thing for me is they provide space, that it’s a city park.”
Designation as a city park would mean the city handles insurance issues, Cayer said, and that’s a key part of the project’s feasibility. If the city provides the space, said Cayer, members of the working group can raise enough private funding to cover the entire cost of the project.
Two proposed sites have already become problematic. One, in Dougherty Park (near Denny’s in Libbytown) ran into opposition from neighbors and conflicted with plans to build a baseball field there. The other, beneath the Casco Bay Bridge, is opposed by Maine Department of Transportation officials who cite potential problems accessing the area.
To Cayer, the skate park isn’t just a place kids can get rad in every once in a while – it’s a key component to keeping Portland youth engaged in the community. The city, he said, needs to recognize that the new generation of young people have different recreational interests than previous generations.
“Historically, what do they build for kids,” Cayer said of city officials: “Soccer fields, baseball fields. There is a new set of things kids like to do these days,” like skateboarding, freestyle BMX bike riding and rollerblading, and graffiti (the artistic type, not the criminal kind).
“It’s important that communities provide space for their up-and-coming members,” said Cayer. Without such public spaces, young people “grow up feeling marginalized,” he added, and will continue to leave the Portland as soon as they can.