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The negative publicity and widespread misinformation surrounding the new downtown skate park is unfortunate for many reasons, most importantly because it gives the appearance that this is a divisive issue for our community.
The truth is that there is just a handful of vocal opponents to the skate park.
They have managed to convince many of the residents of 2500 Central and Oppenheimer Place that a skate park downtown near the library would reduce their property values and threaten their way of life, and there is simply no basis for these fears.
The claim that the handling of this project has been “a demonstration of clout and influence” is absurd.
In the FY 2005 budget, adopted over four years ago, $500,000 in Capital Improvement Project funds were allocated for a new skate park to replace the closed skate park on Canyon Road.
In 2006 and 2007, locations and styles for this park were investigated by an ad hoc group, initially consisting of youth, the Los Alamos Police Department, and the county parks division.
Multiple sites and design options were considered. There were innumerable public meetings for planning and commentary.
In June of 2007, the site near Mesa Library was recommended to council, extensive public comment was heard and the site was unanimously approved by County Council.
This site was not selected hurriedly or haphazardly, it was selected as the best of all the options because it has considerable advantages.
After the site was approved and a contractor was selected, the design was submitted to the Planning and Zoning Commission for approval.
At a lengthy hearing to review the site plan, the commission determined that the project meets all the necessary criteria.
There is absolutely no evidence that this park will adversely affect the library or any of the adjacent properties — in fact, most residences are 500 feet or more from the skate park site itself.
The skate park will be within the library parcel of land, and it is that library property line that is within 300 feet of the nearest residence.
In reality, the skate park is designed as a small, attractive plaza that will be located next to the tot play lot and the farmers market site, not “on the front steps of Mesa Public Library.”
A large parking area, the movie theatre, the demolition of the Municipal Building, and the planned new construction of the jail and police/judicial complex are all closer to the 2500 Central residents.
Very few of these features were included in the Downtown Master Plan from 2000, and my understanding is that there was opposition to Mesa Library and the Senior Center buildings when they were planned. Change can be difficult.
So, why has this small project attracted such negative attention?
I believe that this is a case of emotional involvement, fear of the unknown and discrimination against youth who practice a sport that didn’t exist 60 years ago when Los Alamos was full of young, adventurous types.
We live in a community with very limited development options, and it is a challenge to find any space for growth or change.
Yet, part of our county’s Vision and Comprehensive Plan is to revitalize downtown, to create a “vibrant, buzzing, pedestrian friendly downtown.”
The facts support the construction of this skate park in this location.
This is a fantastic opportunity, not a crisis.