Skateboards, continued

See if you can follow the skateboard issue around town: Park Board recommends Ames Park, Council asks for consideration of safety issues, Council gets update on safety and sends issue back to Park Board, Park Board holds meeting but no decision reached, Park Board will hold special meeting Tuesday, 4/21, Village on the Cannon will hold another meeting about skateboards and Riverside Park on Wednesday, 4/22…

I’m really bothered by the process.    I am confused about what is and what is not on the agenda and, if we attempt to act somewhere between starting the whole process over and accepting the Ames Park location, I do not know how we justify our starting place in a principled way.

I went and looked at the 2008 Parks, Open Space, and Trails System Plan adopted just last year which has been cited little if at all.

Section 3 Select Special-Use Facilities and Amenities begins with the Skateboard park and a comparison of the site opportunities/Benefits and Constraints/Limitations of Memorial Park (the overwhelming preference of the Skateboard Coalition – see Appendix B), Ames Park and Babcock Park – the 3 parks considered by the Park Board before recommending Ames.   Appendix A has a park by park summary of each park, its current amenities and future plans and the skateboard park is mentioned for Memorial Park and Ames Park.

The latest development is that the Park Board unanimously recommended Ames Park at their special meeting 4/21 (I couldn’t attend, but I understand it was a long one) and the issue (and the Park Board) will be back to the Council on Monday.

I did attend (along with Mayor Mary Rossing and Councilwoman Rhonda Pownell) a meeting held by and at the Village on the Cannon last night to hear residents’ concerns about putting the skate park in Riverside Park.    Village on the Cannon is an over-55 condominium development (only Phase I has been completed, so it could be about 2/3 larger at full build-out) and its neighbor is the Millstream Commons assisted living facility.  Residents spoke about being a vulnerable community and about small-scale terrorism by skateboarders on and around the Village on the Cannon property.    Although I had other reasons I thought Riverside Park wasn’t the best location, I hadn’t thought hard about the older and more vulnerable character of the neighborhood.  Certainly this is  another factor we should be considering when planning place-appropriate parks, but it makes the planning process more difficult when the park in question –Riverside Park– is a community park (larger, more widely used) and not a neighborhood park.

Skateboarder behavior is another persistent problem, but I am not sure that city government is the right entity to address this (although clearly we have the public safety and law enforcement responsibility) at least not alone.  Parents, community leaders, youth leaders, community service organizations – we need all of them to help teach our young people good public behavior (without taking all the fun out of it).   I’d suggest that the Skateboard Coalition needs not only to raise money, but also to help do public relations and education about the sport and its participants because I fear that the perception that skateboards and their riders are just bad news – bad for business, bad for property values and bad for Northfield – is a drag on efforts to create a skate plaza.

A small comment about Money: No matter where it is located or what the design may be, funding the facility is a potential limiting factor.    The City has a very tight budget and this affects all decisions about park development and all other expenses, capital and otherwise.  Money can be used as an excuse to veto the skateboard park for other reasons, but even those of us who support the skateboard park know that money is an issue and affects how much we can do and how fast we can do it.   The flip side is that we don’t know what the capital outlay will be until we make some other choices.