The Skatepark Decision, Part 8

“If you’re going to ask the police to help you keep it safe, you have to think about the rules and subsequent enforcement mechanism for those rules,” says Winegar. Again, police involvement allows you to more easily establish those parameters.

Overcoming Obstacles

Winegar’s observations led him to be a major proponent for a new skatepark in north Portland. Previously, the city did not have a successful skatepark in its system and Winegar figured it was high time to make something happen.

His first step was to contact the local National Guard to see if it would be interested in helping with the construction of a skatepark (Winegar is a Guardsman). The Guard has a program for community improvement projects, utilizing Federal grant money as the funding catalyst.

Winegar submitted his proposal, which he likens to a thorough business plan, which was readily accepted. The next step was to run the proposal up the community flag pole, specifically the neighborhood association for north Portland.

Armed with his information, and a blessing from the National Guard, Winegar was positioned third on that night’s agenda. Unbeknownst to him, second on the agenda was a young man named Luke Akers seeking the exact same result.

Akers and six or so skateboarding buddies made an effective presentation to the association, greasing the wheels for Winegar’s presentation.

“The neighborhood association decided that they would sponsor the project. From that day forward they held all the necessary community meetings, provided political support and provided time, people and effort to assist with the process and construction,” recalls Winegar.

“It was a great marriage that happened from that evening right off the bat. Then it took a lot more cooperative effort.”

With the neighborhood association as the oversight body, the skaters went out in the area to find a potential location for the park. The list they came up with was compared to a checklist of items that would be needed at the site — open space, easy access (including proximity to a bus line), a nearby telephone, bathrooms, and so on.

The list was narrowed to a city park, which was approved with a conditional land use agreement, which requires that you poll residents within a certain distance of the park.

“The kids stepped up to the plate on this. One of the teachers at their school agreed to take this on as a social studies/civic action learning experience for the students. They put the survey together, and not only did they meet the city requirements, they went six to eight blocks in every direction and polled everyone,” relates Winegar.

Winegar adds that only two neighbors had a problem with the park, with safety being their primary concern. Once the skaters and Winegar spoke with them individually, their fears were allayed and the park had passed that hurdle.

“By the time that was all over, one of the neighbors said, ‘We live really close to the park, so if anyone ever gets hurt, you can come to our house, use our phone and call for help.’ They turned from antagonists to protagonists,” says Winegar.

Indeed, as this and similar experiences filter in from across the country, people once adverse to the idea of a skatepark learn to love the reality as they’re educated, particularly by the skaters themselves.

With the construction money accounted for, the next hurdle was raising the money needed for the peripheral work associated with the construction.

The neighborhood association defrayed the cost of design, partly by holding a fundraiser. Once design was paid for, the next financial hurdle was paying for the permit fees. A building permit would cost $10,000, but dogged effort by the skaters and the community convinced the city to waive the permit fees. As Winegar recalls, “The mayor had a difficult time saying no to the kids.”

Then, a related fiscal crisis appeared. The permit was rejected because the building code requires that any public structure open to public access needs a 36-inch high safety railing any time there’s a drop of more than 12 inches.

So they had to appeal the denial of permit, which would cost a couple of thousand dollars. Fortunately, they were able to utilize a Gang Resistance Training and Education (GREAT) trust fund to pay for the appeal.

“It could’ve been a show stopper. I’m hoping that the drafters of the building code are beginning to recognize skateparks as a structure with unique needs,” says Winegar.

“For a community that wants to go down this road the best first step would be to build an exception or waiver clause into their building code for skatepark facilities. If we had known that in advance, we could’ve avoided the problem altogether.”

Winegar says the skatepark blazed a lot of new territory for Portland, so questions about liability needed to be answered.

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Related posts:

  1. The Skatepark Decision, Part 1
  2. Creating A Skatepark
  3. Feeling Minnesota
  4. Home Sweet Home
  5. Skatepark in Action
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