City has place for teens on wheels

By KATHY KORENGEL

Herald Writer

MARYSVILLE — Taylor Kron, a longtime skateboarder, sailed high on the news that the city council finally has approved the purchase of a site for the city’s first skateboard park.

"Cool," Taylor, 14, said excitedly.

"Everybody’s been waiting for this for a long time," said Taylor, who has been skateboarding for two years. "We really needed a place to skate."

The council approved the purchase Tuesday of the property at 1040 Columbia Ave., behind the Strawberry Lanes bowling alley. The city has been working since 1994 to find a place for skaters to strut their stuff.

Parks and Recreation Director Jim Ballew said the price of the property, which is about six-tenths of an acre, couldn’t be disclosed because the purchase hasn’t closed. He said it’s expected to close by Dec. 5.

In the meantime, the city will be forming a committee of skateboarders and citizens to help an architect design the park, a process expected to take six to eight weeks.

As for funding, $75,000 has been earmarked for design in next year’s city budget. Ballew said construction costs, based on statewide standards, could run from $120,000 to $250,000, depending on size and characteristics of the project. The skateboard park is estimated to be about 10,000 to 12,000 square feet.

The city is appealing to the community for donations of funds, materials and labor.

"We’re hoping we can raise 50 percent of the costs" through donations, Ballew said.

If funding comes through, the park could be built by next spring or summer, he said.

Ballew said other sites considered, all in current parks, were ruled out either because skateboarding would not mesh with existing activities, it would have been too costly to build a skate park in them, or they lacked adequate space and amenities.

Community opposition also was a factor, Ballew said.

"People didn’t want it in their back yard," he said, adding that attitude has changed as the community’s perception of skateboarders has changed.

"These are great kids," Ballew said. "They’re no different than the kids that play baseball or soccer."

Ballew, 46, also said the sport’s popularity is soaring among adults, himself included.

John Myers, a former city council member who helped form a nonprofit group that raised $1,500 toward a skate park through benefit events, welcomed the news of the pending park purchase.

Myers said he pushed for the park because, when he was a council member, the community kept taking privileges away from teens. Skateboarding was banned from Marysville School District property in 1994 and then from Comeford Park.

"I thought we should give something back," Myers said.

He also said skateboarders have come and gone from the nonprofit group, called the Marysville Skatepark Fund, partly because they lost patience with the process.

"Now that a site’s chosen, I think they’ll start coming back" to the group, Myers said.

Kron said he may try to get on the city’s design committee, but for now he’s happy to know there’s a future home for skateboard enthusiasts.

"We won’t get kicked out of places that don’t allow skateboarding, like the high school," Kron said. "It’ll give us a good place to skate."

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