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Town Park site eyed for new skatepark

Though still an uncertainty for the next few weeks, a proposed skatepark in Pagosa Springs was given a reprieve with an alternate location during Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting.

The future of the skatepark was recently thrown into question due to the town’s inability to build a new wastewater treatment plant. Initial plans placed the park on land owned by the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District (PSSGID), which was to be deeded to the town for the park’s construction. However, with the town deciding not to move forward with the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant, an action necessitating a retrofit of the current wastewater lagoon system, the PSSGID was unable to deed that parcel to the town.

In a phone interview last week, PSSGID Supervisor Phil Starks said that deeding the parcel was untenable. “I need it (the parcel) as a buffer zone and need as much of a buffer zone as possible,” he said. “I need to put in new headworks right adjacent to where the skatepark was to go in.”

Starks stated that, due to the toxic nature of wastewater treatment, the location of a skatepark adjacent to the retrofitted system would have been in violation of Environmental Protection Agency standards — and an unpleasant experience for users of a skatepark.

Although the town made the decision not to construct a new wastewater treatment plant at its July 7 meeting, how that decision would affect the placement of the proposed skatepark apparently did not come to light until late last week when Starks told town officials the PSSGID would be unable to deed the parcel in question to the town.

“We wouldn’t have had that if the treatment plant had gone in,” Starks said.

Scrambling to scope out a new location for the skatepark, council heard options from Parks and Recreation Director Tom Carosello.

“On the recommendation of (Town Manager) David Mitchem and (Parks Superintendent) Jim Miller, we’ve decided that Town Park, at the northeast end of the park, would be the best alternative,” Carosello said. He referred to the athletic field, across Hermosa Street from Town Park proper.

Considering the merits of the new location, council appeared to support the proposal. Given that the previous location — just south of Yamaguchi Park — would have placed the skatepark well out of the public’s eye, council felt that the new location would provide a showcase for the almost $400,000 project.

Although the location would present some logistical issues on various levels (affecting space used for junior high football practice, providing less available space for events such as the Fiber Fest and the Fourth of July carnival, etc.), council appeared to agree that the Town Park athletic field location would be a better fit for the skatepark.

A primary concern with the previously proposed location had been the site’s lack of visibility and the potential for criminal activity.

“I think it’s a great option,” said council member (and former Chief of Police) Don Volger. “And with a high visibility option, we could attract the real athletes and avoid the element that would cause problems.”

Carosello was given direction to pursue the Town Park location for the skatepark. Although Carosello reported that additional engineering would be required for the new location (and several minor issues would need to be resolved), he said he felt confident that the loose ends could be tied up in time to meet the Aug. 26 deadline for submitting a Greater Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant that would largely fund the project.

For its part, the town will need to commit the location to the project in order to meet GOCO requirements for the grant application. According to Mitchem, council will hear a resolution at the Aug. 20 mid-month meeting to commit that portion of Town Park for the project.

For the past several years, the Skaters Coalition for Concrete (SCC) organized to get a new skateboard park built in Pagosa Springs. The park has been funded from a mixture of private donations, county 1A funding (to the tune of $50,000), a $50,000 donation match from The Springs Resort, a $10,000 donation from the Koch family, as well as other private donations and money raised from SCC events. Another $40,000 of in-kind donations — construction work and materials promised by local contractors — helped to put local funding in place to qualify for the GOCO grant.

The town should hear about the GOCO grant award by December. If the grant is awarded, construction on the park could begin in late spring 2010.

The new amenity, if everything goes through, would not only provide another recreational opportunity for local families and skaters, but would also provide a symbolic indication that, despite depressed economic times, the town of Pagosa Springs is moving forward with its commitment to provide a family-friendly environment for its residents.

Council meets again Thursday, Aug. 20, at noon at Town Hall.

jim@pagosasun.com