2017-04-28 / Front Page

Skate park plans roll forward

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — Nearly four years after Kennebunk voters authorized spending $100,000 to upgrade the town’s skateboard park, a consultant has been chosen to design and build a new facility.

At its April 11 meeting, the Kennebunk Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to award the project to California Skateparks of Upland, California. According to Economic Development Director Mat Eddy, who acted as staff liaison to the ad hoc skatepark committee created by selectmen last November, the company’s administrative and logistical costs will chew up “in the $15,000 to $20,000 range [in] mobilizing travel and getting materials here. However, that does not necessarily mean actual on-site construction is limited to an $85,000 project.

Selectman Deborah Beal, who has attended many of the committee meetings, said it is open to fundraising, and even selling naming rights to the complex, to be built on a site yet to be determined. Selectmen could also put additional funds in future operational or capital improvement budgets, she said.

“Yes, that [$100,000] is what’s there and that’s what has been approved,” she said. “But is that the end? It is not.”

The current skate park on Factory Pasture Lane was built in 1993. Twenty years later, in June 2013, Kennebunk residents voted 394-213 to borrow $1.28 million for various road, sidewalk and park projects. Listed among the items was “skateboard park improvements,” for which selectmen earmarked $100,000 of the bond money.

After deciding adjacent wetlands made expanding the existing park problematic, at best, selectmen reviewed 10 alternate locations during the summer and fall of 2014, eventually settling on Parsons Field as the best site, and tasked Town Engineer Chris Osterrieder to report back with a plan by the spring of 2015.

Before than happened, however, some downtown business preemptively killed one concept, which was to put the new park between their stores and the Parsons Field teen center. Then, when plans surfaced that put the new skate park on the other side of the park, directly adjacent to the ball fields, local residents rose up to oppose that design.

Chief among them was Park Street resident Shiloh Schulte, who organized a citizens’ petition meant to impress upon selectmen that they were on the wrong side of public sentiment.

The question, successfully placed on the June 2015 ballot — “Do you favor the town allocating green space in Parsons Field to construct a new skateboard park rather than improving the current skateboard park?” — fell hard: 1,196 to 2,766.

Schulte also decided to also throw his hat into the selectmen’s race that year and rode the wave of public opinion into office, placing third among six candidates for three open seats.

But with Parsons Field off the table, the question of where to place the new park fell to the back burner and it was not until November 2016, almost 18 months after voters rejected the preferred site, that selectmen established an ad hoc skate park committee and tasked it with developing an request for proposal (RFP) to spend the $100,000 authorized by voters for the project.

At the April 11 selectmen’s meeting, Eddy said the committee was “almost unanimous” in its preference for California Skateparks, although he did not provide a breakdown of the vote. The other firms to submit bids included Independent ShotCrete of Brooklyn, Pillar Design Studios of Chicago and American Ramp Company of Joplin, Missouri.

Selectman Christopher Cluff asked why the committee did not choose a more local firm.

“We have a very limited budget and I would hate to see that eaten up by travel costs,” he said.

Eddy said the New York company did have on its staff “local people who had grown up here” in the Kennebunks.

“That became a very big part of the [committee] discussion,” he said. “But in the end they didn’t have the design skills, and the company itself was still from New York.” Meanwhile, Eddy said California Skateparks does have a division on the East Coast, along with experience building skate parks in the northeast.

“They have the ability to bring a lot of horsepower right to the site. Most of the people will not be coming from California,” he said, adding that the firm has built into its budget three meetings with the committee preparatory to choosing a location and creating a plan.

“I fought for the local group as long as I could,” committee member Jim Trentalange said, “but they [California Skareparks] are the gold standard of the skateboard community. They build beautiful parks.”

Beal, meanwhile, had high praise for all seven members of the skate park committee, but especially its youth member representative, Will Hallee.

“I was very proud of every individual member on that committee for the input that they had, the homework that they had done, the notes that they had taken, and I’m telling you, if you want to know the youth in this community, I am so impressed,” she said. “Will is very articulate. But every single one of them had a passion, and yet they were choosing based on qualifications and who they think is going to do the best job, and nothing else. They looked at parks that had been built and how they held up, and really got into the nitty-gritty of it. They did a lot of work in a really short amount of time. I have complete faith in the decision they made.”

Although no site for the park has been chosen, Trentalange said the committee is interested in utilizing the sledding hill at the public landfill on Sea Road as a possible spot for a multiuse complex that would accommodate year-round recreation, including skateboarding, sledding, and a bicycle “pump track.”

“We can do more for the community by looking at the whole community,” he said. “California Skateparks was the one that had a big enough vision and has built big enough parks to make that possible.”

Cluff said he was ready to “move forward” on the project, but Selectman Ed Karytko, referencing the long road since the 2013 vote authorizing funds, already had a finish line in sight.

“Never mind move it forward, I want to get this over with,” he joked.

Meanwhile, board Chairman Dick Morin reminded everyone that the new park is still in its very primordial stage and there will undoubtedly be additional board votes down the road as the final plan takes shape. But for now, the ball is in the committee’s court.

“Nothing moves forward until this committee makes its recommendation,” he said.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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