Rambling Jack: We need to stop futzing around and get this skate park built

Cartoon by Terry Torgerson

(I wrote the column below for the Jan. 9, 2013 edition of the McKinleyville Press. A lot has changed since then, but one thing has not – McKinleyville still does not have a skate park. The effort to build a skate park has been underway for about 17 years now, but there’s nothing to show for it but some money in a bank account. A new group called the Community Skate Park Organization is now pushing the project. I wish them total success.)

The first meeting of the McKinleyville Skate Park Organization, before the group even had a name, was held in the McKinleyville Press office about a dozen years ago. We got together and declared our intent to build a park right here in McKinleyville. We were enthusiastic and it seemed like our vision would become a reality within a short amount of time.

But the years went by and nothing happened. Sure, we raised a little money and created a design, but that’s about it. The young skaters who enthusiastically attended those first meetings grew up and moved away. They never got their skate park. People came and went from the organization. The leadership changed many times. The last skate park committee meeting I attended was about a decade ago.

The McKinleyville Skate Park Organization (MSPO) is still toiling away today, with a small, committed group of volunteers who are keeping the dream alive. They’re slowly raising funds and hoping, against all odds, to build the park.

But there’s a problem. A big problem.

The design for the skate park is estimated to cost from $400,000 to $500,000 for phase one. Meanwhile, the MSPO has raised about $40,000. That’s a lot of clams, but not even close to what’s needed to build a park. At the current rate of fund raising, it will take about a century to raise the half million dollars needed to build a skate park. By the time that money is raised, we’ll all be dead. That plan sucks, don’t you agree?

So let’s change the plan. This is going to require some radical thinking. Here is what we need to do:

Take the existing design for the McKinleyville Skate Park, roll it up and put it in a cardboard tube. Insert a stick of dynamite.

Light the fuse, run like hell and never look back.

Convene a special meeting of the McKinleyville Recreation Ad- visory Committee. On the agenda: Plan for building a skate park in McKinleyville. The committee needs to start with a budget. How much money is available for the skate park? The McKinleyville Community Services District has access to what are called Quimby Funds. This is money, paid by developers, dedicated to park improvements. The MCSD could afford to dedicate at least $25,000 in Quimby Funds towards a skate park, or maybe even $50,000. If the McKinleyville Skate Park Organiza- tion wants to participate, it could chip in its $40,000, which would give the district from $65,000 to $90,000 for a skate park. The Recreation Committee could then design a skate park around this budget, get approval from the McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors and have the park built at Pierson Park.

Construction could begin this summer. Theoretically. Actually, with the death of McKinleyville Community Services District Manager Norman Shopay, district staff is overloaded with work right now. So building a skate park six months from now is probably asking too much. Maybe we could begin the design work and plan on breaking ground in the summer of 2014.

But.. but.. but... what about that wonderful half-million-dollar skate park design created by the Tony Hawk Foundation? What about its awesomeness? Why can’t we have a Cadillac skate park?

That design is a beautiful dream, but we don’t have the money for it.

Maybe we could include some of its design elements in the new budget-conscious skate park plan.

Maybe we can envision our new skate park as “Phase 1,” with additional elements added at a later date, when funds become available and pigs fly.

Either way, let’s get this thing done. This is going to require leadership. That leadership needs to come from the McKinleyville Community Services District, not the non-profit McKinleyville Skate Park Organization.

No offense to the MSPO. It’s a great group of volunteers. But they don’t have the time or resources to build the skate park themselves. They need help. The MCSD can get this done.

Hopefully, the MSPO will be amenable to the idea of building a smaller, more modest skate park at Pierson Park. The $40,000 they’ve raised would go a long way towards realizing the dream.

But what if the MSPO sticks with its half-million-dollar design? Then it’s time to move on. McKinleyville deserves a skate park today, not 20 to 50 to 100 years from now.

Let’s build this thing. Now! What are your thoughts?

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