Skate park plan goes back to drawing board

Board to look at its public process


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The Chugiak-Eagle River Parks and Recreation Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Monday, March 11 to undo a previous board action that removed a skate park from potential uses of municipal land adjacent to Fire House Lane in Eagle River.

Immediately after that vote, the board voted to adopt a resolution that removes the park from potential uses at the controversial site until “robust public process with any affected neighborhoods is complete.”

The seemingly contradictory actions were taken as an acknowledgment by the board that its original action to remove the park idea from consideration was done in haste and without proper input from the entire Chugiak-Eagle River community.

“We said, ‘Oops, our bad,’” explained board president Brian Fay.

In January, the board passed a motion brought forward by member Amy Demboski to remove the skate park from scoping plans for the Fire House Lane property. But because the board took action without an agenda item, board member Randy McCain said he was uncomfortable with the process. At the time, McCain said he wasn’t necessarily for or against the location, but that he didn’t think the board acted correctly.

The board’s decision to rescind its previous action doesn’t mean Fire House Lane will have a skate park. Because of the second motion — which mirrored a resolution passed by the Chugiak Community Council — no skate park plans can go forward without more public input.

“I do believe in the future we will make sure the public process is at the forefront of placement of the park,” Fay said.

Parks director John Rodda said some work at the location — which includes wooded land and tennis courts near Eagle River Elementary — will proceed this summer, including some thinning of vegetation and work to install a new handicap-accessible pathway.

“We’re going to make it more visible and positive place around the tennis courts,” Rodda said.

The board’s actions came after several nearby residents spoke out against placing a skate park in their neighborhood, saying such a park would bring an increase in vandalism and drug use to the area and could endanger nearby elementary school students.

“The real losers here are the students of Eagle River Elementary,” said Paul Sangl, who said such a park would bring “graffiti, trash and punks” to the area.

Despite their feelings, most who testified said they’re not against skate parks — they just don’t want one nearby.

“I have no objection to a skateboard park, but in that location it would be unconscionable,” Sangl said.

Yvette Wilkins said she’d like to see an indoor skate park that could be monitored by adults.

“They need to build a year-round skate park,” she said.

Following the discussion, the board decided to take a new look at its bylaws to ensure that future issues are decided after a thorough public process is followed. McCain volunteered to write a draft version of new bylaws, and the board agreed to take up the issue at future meetings, which are held the second Monday of each month.

 

Reach star editor Matt Tunseth at matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com.

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