Ames Park/Skate Park update

First, here are some of the other views on what happened about Ames Park and the Skate Park during the very very very long Council worksession on Monday:

Griff Wigley reports on Locally Grown that he ran into Mayor Mary Rossing and Councilor Erica Zweifel and:

they said that the Council ended up directing staff to try to come up with a creative solution for providing access to Ames Park and the skate plaza [my emphasis].

Northfield News says

“Is this the right location?” asked Councilor Rhonda Pownell, who found the site dangerous. . . .
Councilors Erica Zweifel and Betsey Buckheit, both concerned about the new price, wondered if they should instead focus on whether the project was a priority given impending budget cuts.

I agree with my Council colleagues that the Council did direct staff to look for solutions to access and safety issues and I do have economic questions, but that’s not how I’d summarize the discussion.

Money: If I understand this right, the $235,000 figure which has been showing up in the CIP was a “placeholder” but not based on any actual cost estimate for the park as a whole.   Cost estimates for the two park concepts brought to the Council Monday were between about $480,000 and $670,000 (although the cost for the skate plaza is around $300,000).

  • Problem one: Costs more! Some were surprised that the cost seemed to have soared.
  • Problem two: We can’t afford anything! Some thought we shouldn’t spend money on any park development given our current budget/economic climate.
  • My position: not particularly surprised by new cost estimates (it always takes longer and costs more) and Northfield needs to be working on structural changes to budget, staff and services to be able to sustainably fund its priorities.   I’d say parks are a priority and one of the highly prized assets of the city – Ames Park is certainly an underused park in need of improvement.  For the short term (like the next couple of years), I do not know what the economic situation means for funding Ames Park improvements.  The Council will have to look at this at their goal setting meeting Friday and in continuing discussions, but I don’t think slashing all spending on city services and facilities like parks is the only answer.

Should the skate park be in Ames Park at all? This part of the discussion just makes me squirm in frustration, but let’s see if we can break it down a little.

  • Is Ames Park the absolute best location we can imagine for the skate park? Maybe, maybe not, but that’s not the question on the table.
  • The Park and Recreation Advisory Board recommended and the Council approved Ames Park as the location for the skate park (requiring a safety plan for 5th street and studying the feasibility of a drop-off lane).  Can or should we revisit this issue?
  • Park decision making is a problem: The PRAB reviews park plans and sends them to the Council for approval.  The PRAB, however, does not review the park in the context of land use, transportation, capital planning or other possibly limiting factors. We discovered this with Way Park and 1st Street.  It’s a great park, but with many dangling issues of cost, transportation, etc.  However, the Master Plan for Way Park was approved and we stuck with it.   The prime reason Ames Park was selected for the skate park is that the neighbors of Old Memorial Park objected to a skatepark on the grounds that a Park Master Plan had been approved which did not include a skatepark.  And we adhered to that decision-making.
  • Ames Park does not yet have an approved Master Plan…so according to this logic, there’s a glimmer of opportunity to redecide Ames Park and the skatepark before a Master Plan is finalized.  Or, we rely on the prior decision to site the skatepark in Ames Park and move on to other issues about the park for the Master Plan.  Which should we do…
  • What message are we sending to youth in Northfield about working with the city and about how we value their input? The Skateboard coalition has shown persistence, initiative, great patience and willingness to work with the city.  They’ve done the research for the design, raised money, attended meetings and more.    Organized, tax-paying, voting adults were heard when they wanted to stick to the  Old Memorial Park plan.   We promised, by approving the PRAB’s recommendation, a location in Ames Park.   Money is a limiting factor, but it doesn’t affect (nor should it provide a convenient excuse for voiding) the decision to locate the skate park in Ames Park. For me the question is how and when, not if.

4 thoughts on “Ames Park/Skate Park update

  1. Hey Betsey –

    Excellent job of laying out the history of and issues related to this topic. I especially appreciate the dignity and respect that you rightly give to the Coalitions’ work.

    The prize in my eyes in a more fully utilized Ames Park…and, ideally, one that attracts young people for popular physical activities, families for holiday celebration picnics, and seniors for traditional jazz concerts:

    Thanks much,


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