Seven potential sites eyed for new skate park
March 4, 2014
By Peter Clark
It looks like the future of skateboarding in Issaquah has plenty of options.
Parks & Recreations Department officials unveiled seven possible locations to build a new skate park Feb. 26. In a public meeting at Tibbetts Creek Manor, more than 30 locals, including parents, skaters and police, attended to hear the city’s plans and weigh in with opinions.
The current skate park borders the woods along the Rainier Trail, neighboring the community center. Last year, in the face of a public outcry around crime-related activities occurring there, the City Council budgeted $350,000 for the demolition and construction of a skate park in a new location.
“That’s what we have to work with,” Parks & Recreation Manager Brian Berntsen said at the meeting. “We formed a citizens advisory committee to work through this with us. There is the location, and then there’s the design, and both processes are going to involve our park staff, our community and our citizens advisory committee.”
The Feb. 26 meeting revolved around identifying a location. Berntsen said it had to be city-owned property and officials aim to build an 8,000- to 10,000-square-foot park. The existing park is 5,600 square feet.
City Recreation Supervisor Ross Hoover presented the seven locations, illustrating the pros and cons of each.
People in attendance reacted most favorably to spots at Veterans’ Memorial Field and two that exist at Tibbetts Valley Park.
“If I could take my choice, that would be it,” local skater Austin Fischer said of Veterans’ Memorial Field. “It’s an extreme activity, and there will be injuries and the fire station is right there.”
Many in the crowd approved of the Tibbetts Valley Park locations because of the visibility and access to transit, though some expressed doubt about the relative remoteness.
“I used to meet my son at the skate park a lot and I would feel really good at leaving my son at Memorial Park,” Kristina Gravette, mother of a now-professional skateboarder, said. “I’m not so sure I would feel really good leaving them here at Tibbetts Valley Park. I would like to have it somewhere there are businesses.”
Issaquah Police Department’s Patrol and School Resource Officer Karin Weihe cautioned against assuming proximity to the police station would ensure safety.
“To build this park is an awesome opportunity for these kids and this community, and we don’t want it to fail,” she said. “As a law enforcement officer, it’s great to have it near, but when you are behind a building, the negative activities come along with it. We’re not going to be standing there watching. We’re going to be out on patrol.”
Two other locations exist in the Issaquah Highlands at different spots in Central Park. One is adjacent to Park Drive; the other is next to the tennis courts. Ross said they both have access to water, restrooms and have homes looking down on the spots. However, he said, there is no close access to transit or supermarkets.
“I think I would like it to stay downtown,” Gravette said. “Up there on the hill, it’s very exposed, it can be very windy. I would just like it to stay in Issaquah. I know that’s also Issaquah, but I’d like it to stay right here.”
Fischer said the lack of transit affected his opinion of the Central Park sites.
“The transit factor is huge,” he said. “A major bus line is a big thing to consider. Food and a gas station would also be huge. Me and my friends, we go on skateboarding road trips. If there are other businesses around, it could stimulate economic growth.”
Resident Wyatt Stoppard raised other worries about the highlands properties.
“That ground is extremely swampy,” he said. “You can’t walk across that lot without it going through your shoes. The highlands, I don’t like those two options.”
Another location is in Gibson Park, on Newport Way Northwest, across from the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery. There, Hoover said skaters would have access to restrooms and a picnic shelter, though restrooms are limited. The property sits on a heavily trafficked road, which he listed as both a pro for visibility, but a possible safety concern. Construction there would involve moving a current tot lot and some trees.
The final spot is next to Pickering Barn, flush with Northwest Sammamish Road. It received the most criticism from residents.
“I think the Pickering Barn is the worst one, just because of the traffic,” Fischer said. “Parents kind of see skate parks as a daycare center and with Costco right there, I can see that becoming an issue.”
Berntsen said he was thrilled with the responses and praised the value of those taking part.
“We want a skate park for everybody,” he said. “We’ll have two meetings for the location and when we start working with a consultant. We’ll probably have more than two public meetings for the design. Then, we’re going out to bid and then we’re building a new skate park here in Issaquah.”
The city will hold the next public meeting March 6 at Tibbetts Creek Manor beginning at 6 p.m. Learn more at issaquahwa.gov/skatepark.