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Focusing on skate park

May 04, 2011 | 09:08 AM
Just two days before the Park Board was scheduled to discuss more details about a new $300,000 skate park, city officials focused their attention on the status of the current park Monday night and into Tuesday.

Concerns about the cleanliness and safety at the 10-year-old facility, located at Dunn Field behind Eastview Elementary School, became issues during Monday's Committee of the Whole meeting. Aldermen questioned whether to close the skate park temporarily or if there are liability issues the city should be concerned about.

On Tuesday, City Administrator Dennis Jordan said he went down to the park to take a closer look after concerns were raised the previous night. He said it wouldn't take long for garbage and other messes to be cleaned up, but there are more pressing issues.

A water line break in late winter caused the city to move some of the ramps and tear up the ground around the skate park. Jordan said some of that has not been cleaned up, including gravel and plates that are lying around the area. Jordan said some clean up including some patching and repairing should be done prior to the weekend. Because some of the ramps were moved quickly, there is some damage to a few of the skate park features, but it wasn't extensive.

"It looks like the west side of the park is usable, but there are some problems with the east side," Jordan said. "We're just not sure what we should do. Do you block off one side with police tape and not the other?"

No final decision was made as of Tuesday early afternoon as Jordan was waiting for further information from Police Chief Michael Rasmussen and Public Works Director Dan Winkler regarding what to do with the park in the meantime. On Tuesday, Jordan said he discussed the issues with Ryan Harris, 24, one of the older users of the park. According to Jordan, Harris said the issues weren't that significant and the skaters and BMXers who spend their time at the park avoid the areas where there may be problems with the ramps and apparatus.

Jordan expected more discussion about these issues at the May 4 Park Board meeting.

"We'll monitor it," Jordan said.

During the public comments portion of the Committee of the Whole meeting Monday, former alderman Bill Huntress discussed some of the problems he's seen at the park and his ideas to solve the issues. It was his second appearance in front of council to discuss the skate park. Last time he said there were problems with skate park users drinking, smoking and vandalism.

This time Huntress focused on the safety issues in the park and voiced concern about the possibility of a lawsuit if someone is injured at the park.

"If you take a look at the condition of the park, if a child gets hurt there, even a first-year law student would win a case," Huntress said. "I am not in favor of closing the park, but let's take care of it. It needs to be cleaned and fixed and managed properly."

Later in the meeting, aldermen discussed the concerns brought up by Huntress.

"If it is a liability issue, it should be closed," Alderman Todd Krause said.

"If something goes wrong and the city knows about it, right now, we are liable," Alderwoman Arleen Krohn said. "We are aware and we are not doing something about it."

Mayor Jim Connors said if the safety concerns are present, the facility should be closed. He suggested police tape around it if it is deemed necessary to shut it down.

On May 4, Park Board members will hold their regular monthly meeting. They have been talking for more than a year about building a new skate park. Last month, three of the top skate/BMX park designers attended a special meeting to talk about a new facility.

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