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Skate park changes considered

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At their April 4 meeting, Village Council members returned to an earlier discussion on the Village skate park, including needed repairs and possible upgrades. Several community members encouraged Council to make improvements in order to make the park more amenable to younger skaters.

“The skate park is vital to the community,” said Mills Lawn Principal Matt Housh, who is himself a skateboarder. “There are tons of kids from Mills Lawn who go there.”

Kids start to use the park in about the second grade, Housh said, stating that skateboarding is “especially popular in Yellow Springs, maybe because some dads used to skate.”

Council has considered the possibiity of adding an area for younger skaters in the space currently occupied by the tennis court, which is largely unused. Housh and parent Melissa Heston encouraged Council to add an area for younger children to the park.

“Younger and older kids each need their own space,” Heston said.

The topic was discussion only, and no decisions were made.

The possibility of skate park upgrades is on Council’s agenda because the Village has more than $300,000 to use on parks, due to commitments made by the 2006 Village Council for the Village property tax levy. Because some anticipated expenses, such as pool upgrades, didn’t cost as much as expected, there is money left in a designated fund for parks that can’t be used for other needs.

“That’s what was promised to you when you voted for the levy,” Hempfling said.

Village Manager Mark Cundiff has encouraged Council to put some money into upgrading the skate park because it’s the second most used park in the village, and a significant chunk of levy funds was already used for Gaunt Park pool upgrades. Included in money set aside for the skate park is $10,000 for needed repairs that was budgeted in 2010 but not used due to the illness of Village staff overseeing the project, Cundiff said. In recent months, an Eagle Scout has approached the Village seeking to make the repairs himself as his Scout project, along with constructing new “rails” as part of the project. The young man will also organize volunteers and raise money to pay for materials, according to Cundiff, who said the work on repairs will begin when the weather permits.

The 2011 Village budget contains $50,000 for skate park upgrades, which are to be used as a match for any funds raised by grassroots efforts. Possible upgrades include adding a bowl and/or plaza features to the existing park, as well as a section dedicated to younger skaters, according to a memo from Cundiff to Council.

Karen Wintrow repeated her concern that there seems a lack of involvement from young people who use the park and their parents. Two skate board park users attended the Council meeting but did not speak.

According to John Booth, skateboarders have been involved in smaller meetings with Village staff regarding the park.

The Village’s recent action removing the steps that led from the bike path into the western part of the skate park seems unwelcoming to the skateboarders, according to Human Relations Commission member Joan Chappelle. That action was taken after Millworks owner Sam Young urged Council to remove the steps due to Millsworks repeated problems with graffiti vandalism. At the April 4 meeting Young said that while he was not accusing skateboarders of defacing the buildings, he believes “there is some overlap” between the vandals and the skateboard community. The skateboarders may currently enter the park only from the eastern side.

Skate park neighbor Beth Holyoke also stated her displeasure with the removal of the western steps, since it inconveniences the young people who use the park, and who often park or are dropped off at the bike path entrance.

“They’re fantastic, great neighbors, and they need access to their park,” Holyoke said.

Two outstanding issues need to be resolved before Council moves ahead with skate park changes, Council members said. First, the Village has an agreement with Verizon that the cell phone company will install a new tower in the Village-owned area east of the skatepark. That installation is expected to take place this summer, and could effect future skate park decisions, Cundiff said.

Also, Wintrow repeated her concern that any major skate park changes should take place in the context of a review of all Village parks.

“We seem to just look at individual things and never the big picture,” Wintrow said.

Villager Sue Abendroth questioned the Village spending significant money for skatepark upgrades, and especially the need for $50,000 for a parks master plan, which had been mentioned at previous Council meetings.

Wintrow clarified that the $50,000 for a consultant for a parks master plan was a suggestion by Village staff, and has not been approved by Council. That much expense seems unnecessary for a Village-wide parks review, she said, suggesting that Council could instead survey villagers to identify their priorities regarding park use.

Council members said they will continue the skate park discussion at a later date.

In other Council business:

• Wintrow gave an update on the campaign for the renewal of the Village 8.4 mill property tax levy, which will be on the ballot May 3. The levy campaign committee —Council members Wintrow and Hempfling, Megan Bachman, Ken Huber, Kate LeVesconte, Len Kramer, Craig Mesure and co-chairs Lisa Abel and Barry Reich — recently began distributing a brochure with levy facts, and also has a Web site, .

•Council unanimously approved a Request for Qualification, or RFQ, for a nonprofit partner for the Cemetery Street affordable housing project. After proposals are received, Council’s next step will be to choose a partner.

• Council approved an RFQ for the rewriting of the Village zoning code.

• Community Access Panel head Jean Payne gave that group’s annual report.


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