Windfall revives dreams of Eugene skate park

26 10 2012

Windfall revives dreams of Eugene skate park
The Register-Guard
Published: October 25, 2012 12:00AM, Midnight, Oct. 25

Plans for the Washington-
Jefferson skate park project are rolling again, given momentum by a promise of a lot more city cash, and the skating venue even could be built by next fall, the City Council heard Wednesday.

The long-talked-about public-private venture had been stymied because Skaters for Eugene Skateparks and the Downtown Rotary had only been able to raise less than $100,000 of the $900,000 needed for the project.

Also — after pledging to contribute $292,000 to the design and development of the skate park — city officials didn’t know where to find more city revenue to plug the fundraising gap.

But on Wednesday, officials told the council that greater-than-expected revenue from so-called system development charges can be used for the project. The extra development fees mainly are coming from the developers of a slew of new apartment projects around the University of Oregon, said Neil Bjorklund, parks and open space planning manager.

Park development fees paid by developers are dedicated to park-related projects, he said. The additional revenue has not been reserved for other projects, Bjorklund said.

“That money had not been appropriated because we did not expect it to come in,” he said.

With the new-found revenue, the city could chip in an extra $383,000 to plug the fundraising gap, which would bring it’s total contribution to about $675,000.

However, the skate park is a public-private effort, Bjorklund said, and the community groups have agreed to raise a total of about 25 percent, or $225,000, of the project’s cost.

The Eugene Parks Foundation has agreed to help Skaters for Eugene Skateparks and the Downtown Rotary with fundraising, Bjorklund said.

“We have a new coalition of partners who are willing to do an additional round of fundraising,” he said.

A dream of supporters since 2004, the 23,000-square-foot skate park is envisioned as a world-class venue to provide recreation for local residents, as well as to draw skateboarders and inline skaters from around the region and West Coast.

The park is proposed for the area under the Washington-
Jefferson Bridge, between the basketball and horseshoe courts.

The skate park is seen by park supporters as a way to transform Washington-Jefferson Park — a popular hangout for transients — into a more family friendly area.

City councilors and Mayor Kitty Piercy were enthused about the new financing plan. The council voted 8-0 to approve the city staff’s request to pursue using extra system development fees to help fund the park.

“It’s going to take a lot of work, but it’s doable,” southwest Councilor Chris Pryor said.

North-central Councilor Mike Clark asked Bjorklund if the skate park could accommodate BMX bicycle events, which would attract more people to the park.

“That’s something that is definitely on the table,” Bjorklund said.

If the private fundraising can generate $225,000 or anything close to it, the skate park’s construction would begin next summer and be completed by fall, he said.

The private groups and city officials will collaborate on plans to maintain the skate park after it’s built, Bjorklund said.

It’s possible that revenue from equipment rentals, vendors and events could help pay for the park’s maintenance, he said.

Members of Skaters for Eugene Skateparks and the Downtown Rotary attended the council meeting. Afterward, they said they will make a concerted effort to raise the money.

“We are going to give it our best shot,” said Matt Koehler, president of Skaters for Eugene Skateparks.

Michelle Blackwell, chairwoman of the Downtown Rotary’s skate park subcommittee, said the group will “have to come up with creative ideas” to raise money.

But Blackwell said the Rotary, a major fundraiser behind the RiverPlay playground in Skinner Butte Park, is up to the task.

“It’s a team approach,” she said.

Please check out the concept photos provided by Dreamland Skateparks:

Stay tuned throughout the year for project updates!!!

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