City looks at skate park options

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 14, 2016

LaGRANGE — City Council on Tuesday received an update on a planned skate park in downtown.

City Planner Leigh Threadgill in May met with several skaters to discuss ideas and gather input on what skaters would want to see in the park.

“If we do this project, we want to do something that is usable, that they (skaters) would embrace, that they would want to take care of and that we see some growth or interest in that sport,” she said. “… (If) spectators come into play, it can be a draw. It could end up being a tourism thing. Skateboarders travel around to see other state parks that are done differently.”

Threadgill said, based on the skaters’ input, that the park could have more of an attractive plaza setup. Most of the skaters in LaGrange are “street skaters,” she said, and prefer a setting designed like an urban area.

The south end of downtown would be the ideal spot, Threadgill said, and staff is eyeing a portion of city owned property near the Bull and Main streets intersection. It would also be highly visible at the main southern entrances to the city near Whitesville and Hamilton roads at Morgan Street.

A population study by Los Angeles-based Spohn Ranch Skateparks, a design and build firm, states the National Sporting Goods Association and American Sports Data estimate about 2 percent of the U.S. population are skateboarders, but the document states Spohn Ranch has “found that 3 percent is a more accurate representation.” It counts the use of skateboards, bikes, scooters and inline skates as “a contributing factor in using 3 percent.”

Based on a conservative population estimate of 25,588 — 4,000 less than 2010 census data — it calculated about 768 skaters live in the city limits, but divided that by a quarter as an estimate of how many would actually use the skate park consistently. The result estimated 192 “active skateboarders” in LaGrange with about 38 using the park at any given time.

The ideal park size would be 13,000 square feet, the Spohn Ranch study concluded. Threadgill said the property the city is considering is about 20,000 square feet, which should give the city room for other amenities like spectator seating.

“I think that to do something really aesthetically pleasing in that location would be really positive and do something that adds energy to that part of downtown,” Threadgill said.

Public Safety Chief Lou Dekmar said the police department encourages and supports the project, which should draw skaters from illegally skating downtown, which has caused noise complaints.

The city has not made any formal decisions on the planned skating area and is still seeking proposals for designing and building the park.

The city will likely seek a grant from the Tony Hawk foundation for $25,000 to aid in building the park. More significantly, if approved, the skate park would have recognition from being associated with the Tony Hawk name, Threadgill noted. Hawk is a longtime professional skateboarder — probably the most widely known in the sport.

According to the foundation’s website, it focuses on supporting skate parks designed to be open to the public and unsupervised, like “public basketball or tennis courts.” It gives criteria that eligible parks should:

• Be designed and built from concrete by qualified and experienced skate park contractors.

• Include local skaters throughout the planning, fundraising and design process.

• Be in low-income areas or areas with a high population of “at-risk” youth.

• Demonstrate a strong grassroots commitment to the project, particularly in the form of fundraising by local skateboarders and other community groups.

• Have a creative mix of street obstacles like rails, ledges and stairs, and transition/vertical terrain like quarter pipes, bowls and half pipes.

• Not require skaters or their parents to sign waivers.

• Encourage skaters to look after their safety and the safety of others without restricting their access to the park or over-regulating their use of it.

• Be open during daylight hours, 365 days a year.

• Not charge an entrance fee.

• Be in areas that currently have no skateboarding facilities.

“The foundation may offer technical assistance on design and construction, promotional materials and other information,” the site states. “The foundation may also facilitate support from vendors, suppliers and community leaders.”

By Matthew Strother

Matthew Strother is the editor of LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2153.