Skate park dominates agenda

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By Katy Korkos

There was consensus among those at Tuesday's meeting that plans for a skateboard park should go forward, and Councilor Nona Bowman said that her e-mails were 45-to-1 in favor of building the park.

The controversy on the issue has to do with the location in front of Mesa Public Library: whether putting the skate park in that location might change the character of the area, whether another location on the south east side of Ashley Pond might serve the needs of skaters just as well as the location near the library, whether the trees might be harmed by having their roots surrounded by concrete and whether noise might adversely affect library users and nearby residents.

Already earmarked for the park is $500,000, and council approved the location in front of the library at the June 26 meeting. Parks Division Manager Dick McIntyre and Police Chief Wayne Torpy outlined the progress since June.

'We've worked really hard with the kids, to define what they wanted to have, so they would use this park," McIntyre said. McIntyre said that the plan would fit within the existing landscape master plan, which calls for an urban plaza in that area, and that a "flyway" or "snake route" could be designed with minimal concrete on the ground near trees, which he said are "sacred. It can be put together so that trees are not harmed."

Councilor Michael Wheeler said, "The fact that you'll be responsible for the landscaping gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling. Too bad it's moving along so slowly."

Councilor Robert Gibson said most of what he was hearing was "the same as four months ago. The question in my mind is what have we done in the last four months?"

While expressing her commitment to getting a skateboard park in the downtown area, Bowman asked whether council had thoroughly evaluated the other locations. She asked McIntyre and Torpy whether they had considered the parking lot at the southeast corner of the Community Building, at the corner of 20th Street and Trinity for the park.

"We looked at that site in 2006," McIntyre said, adding that it was one of the sites considered, but that parking requirements for the building were prohibitive.

Councilor Ken Milder asked McIntyre and Torpy for assurance that the goals and concept for the park would be transmitted to the architect in the request for proposal (RFP) process.

Torpy said, "I took good notes at the meeting, but more than that, we have the tape from that meeting, and we're going to play that for the architect so he or she can hear all those things from the dialogue that evening."

McIntyre said, "My goal is to build a successful urban style skate park that these kids and their friends cause for years to come."

As far as noise is concerned, Councilor Robert Gibson said, "I did some unprofessional measurements. I got some kids and I had them do their loudest jumps - and a boom box, and cranked it up; I had a sound meter from the police department."

Gibson reported that he could hear the sound of the jumps from outside the library door, but not from inside the library lobby area. He said that "at the property line at 2500 Central, even watching them jump, you could hear a little click."

Public Comment

After councilors weighed in, 18 members of the public lined up to express their opinions on the park, the process and the location.

First up was Colleen Hanlon, who said, "I've talked to about 125 people, and I prefer the alternative site at 20th and Trinity, and my number one reason is that it is a better fit. It's more open, the noise will blend in, they will have a view."

Jack Hanlon was next to speak, and brought drawings of the site at 20th and Trinity that showed how much area was available on that site.

The Hanlons were followed by several adults who urged the council to move forward on the project and who commended the project team for their work, three people who were strongly in favor of the library location, and five people who wanted to have the alternate site considered.

When it was the skaters' turn to speak, frustration with the long process came to the forefront.

"We've gone to meeting after meeting after meeting," Josh Martinez said. "At the beginning, we had a whole bunch of kids who were really stoked about coming. Now the kids don't want to come any more because nothing gets done."

Martinez' sentiments were echoed by two more skaters who spoke, saying, "I'm kinda tired of going to meetings. I really like skating; I just want to have somewhere we can have fun and enjoy it."

"It's just us and our free time, trying to get people to join us," Elliott Marcille said. "Everybody can come, and everybody can smile - that's why we need a skate park."

After the public had spoken, councilors responded by directing staff to move forward as quickly as possible with an RFP to design the park.

"I favor the current site," Wheeler said. "We have to move as quickly as possible."

"I'm quite torn," Councilor Fran Berting said. "We need to do it right, but we need to do it quickly."

Councilor Hall said, "Let's get the lead out - let's get moving. I'd like to see some professional input soon."

Council Chair West said the thought Community Building site was too close to Trinity. "I think what I get (from the discussion) is for staff to continue with the RFP that you have ready to go out," he said. "Get the design back, and let the community look at it then."

County Administrator Max Baker agreed to make have the RFP on the street by the end of the week.