Trio will force council's hand on skate park
Portland's mayor and two councilors plan to demand a decision on a location at a meeting on
By KELLEY BOUCHARD, Staff Writer © Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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June 11, 2007
A year ago, skateboarding advocates worried that Portland's skate park on Marginal Way would be removed long before a new skate park was built.
They were right.
The skate park -- a few rotted, wooden ramps on a paved lot -- was removed earlier this spring to make way for private development of former city-owned land in the Bayside neighborhood.
Now skateboarders in Portland have nowhere to practice their sport but the streets, where it's illegal, and the City Council hasn't figured out where to build a new park as promised two years ago. Mayor Nicholas Mavodones Jr. and councilors David Marshall and Kevin Donoghue plan to force the issue June 18, when they will ask the council to make a decision one way or another.
"We're really creating a double-jeopardy situation for our youth," Marshall said Friday. "They aren't supposed to skate in the streets, but where else do they have? It's not a good way to make our city friendly to our youth." Topping the list of possible sites is Dougherty Field, between St. James and Douglass streets, near the former West Elementary School. A task force of skateboarding advocates and parks and recreation officials settled on the site last year. The skate park would replace abandoned tennis courts beside Interstate 295 and near bus routes.
"It's the best location we've come up with so far," Marshall said.
Councilors Donna Carr and Edward Suslovic, who live near West School, have expressed concern about the effect a skate park would have on their neighbors.
A joint panel of councilors and School Committee members is considering the West School site as a possible location for a new elementary school.
Marshall said the tennis courts are at the far corner of the West School parcel and wouldn't interfere with development of a new school at the site.
Another site under consideration is an open field on Preble Street Extension, near Back Cove Trail and beside I-295.
Building a poured-concrete skate park on that site may be costly and difficult, however, because underground utilities cross the property and the land is a filled tidal area, said Thomas Civiello, assistant director of parks and recreation.
Civiello said several sites remain open to consideration. The task force reviewed all of them thoroughly last year.
When city officials choose a location, it could take two years to fund, design and build the park that skaters have in mind.
Barring private contributions and donations of labor and materials, a poured-concrete skate park could cost Portland taxpayers as much as $300,000. Similar parks have been built in several other Maine communities.
The city borrowed $75,000 last fall for the skate park and $100,000 in 2005 for the same purpose. Skateboarding advocates have raised about $12,000, but securing additional funding has proved frustrating.
"We can't apply for grants if we can't say where we're going to build it," said Eli Cayer, a real estate broker and skateboarder who is planning several fundaisers this summer. "If they tell us where, we can make this happen."
Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org