Council authorizes $350,000 for skate park relocation
September 8, 2013
By Peter Clark
NEW — 6 a.m. Sept. 8, 2013
Plans to relocate the skate park are moving quickly as the Issaquah City Council approved $350,000 for the cause last week.
Concerns over drug usage and delinquent behavior in the past few years have led community groups and the council to push for building a new skate park in a safer area.
During the Sept. 3 regular meeting, a 6-1 vote committed to include the project in the 2014 preliminary budget, directing the administration to fund it. If approved in the budgeting process, money would go to construction of a new skate park on a yet-to-be-determined site as well as repurposing the current one.
Parks & Recreation Department Manger Brian Berntsen gave a presentation that highlighted other skate parks in the region, estimated costs to build one and discussed considerations that should be made to ensure a new park would remain safe.
“Some considerations the City Council would include in a preliminary budget for the skate park are that it should be highly visible, accessible to all ages and abilities and minimal impact to surrounding neighbors,” Berntsen said in his presentation.
He showed pictures and gave specifications for parks in Sammamish, Bellevue, Mercer Island and Redmond. He said the parks providing the most safety were the most successful.
“The ones that were highly visible all had activity in them,” he said. “The ones that were remote didn’t.”
He proposed at least two to four public meetings to gather input on proposed site locations and the design. Berntsen said the Parks & Recreation Department hopes to complete the project by the end of 2014.
In terms of funding, the bill calls for $150,000 drawn from the Real Estate Excise Tax Fund and $200,000 taken from the Park Mitigation Fund. In estimates given in the presentation, Berntsen said the construction would average $300,000, leaving $50,000 for repurposing the current park behind the community center.
“We worked with the Finance Department to ensure the funds are available,” Berntsen said. “This is the project we deem most important at this time.”
Parks & Recreation Department Executive Director Anne McGill explained the Park Mitigation Fund is meant for prioritized capital projects and would not remove resources from department operations.
“This is a totally separate fund,” McGill said. “During budget time, the council looks at capital requests and prioritizes them. They said at the meeting this is a priority.”
Comments from the council were mostly positive.
“I think it speaks very well that the Parks & Recreation Department is making sure the site selection is going to be an appropriate one, but also to make sure that all of the elements that are there are going to have a large outreach to our community,” Councilwoman Eileen Barber said. “When the current park went in, that was thought to be the ideal place then and it didn’t turn out that way. It’s now time for us to look for a relocation of this. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes from this.”
Councilman Tola Marts also responded favorably.
“I’m one of two council members who had this as a submitted goal for this year and so I’m thrilled to see it in front of us,” he said. “This process unleashes a lot of enthusiasm in the community, and both to encourage that conversation and bound it is important.”
Councilman Joshua Schaer gave the dissenting vote and expressed concern that more could be done with a larger allocation and emphasis on appealing to a bigger audience.
“I fully support doing a skateboard park. It’s high time that we move forward on doing so,” he said. “However, I believe that we can do something more. We can include other amenities to enhance whatever site is ultimately chosen, something to bring other families, other people into the location. Just to move forward on only relocating the skateboard park I think might be selling ourselves a little short on what we can do with maybe just a little bit more money.”
The Issaquah Community Network, a vocal group on the subject, was elated at the council’s quick action.
“We’re really pleased that the council took this action,” Executive Director Barbara de Michele said. “We really look forward to being on the citizen’s advisory group.”
She said she thought the council moved quickly on a plan after relocation of a skate park was omitted from the park bond discussion earlier this year.
“I thought this was a really aggressive plan and fast action on their part,” she said. “I really commend them on that.”
The one outstanding question she had centered on the current skate park’s future.
“The network is also very interested in how they’re going to repurpose that one,” she said.
The next steps will be taken at the Park Board, where it will establish a citizen’s group to look at possible sites and to begin gathering public input.