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Town designates site for skate park

After years of fund-raising in support of a new skate park, the Skaters Coalition for Concrete (SCC) moved a step closer to realizing their dream when the Pagosa Springs Town Council voted to pursue possible designation of land for the project at its mid-month meeting last Thursday.

The parcel scoped for the skate park is located behind the post office, on Reservoir Hill, between the junction of Spring and Park streets.

“I think that’s a great spot,” said Mike Musgrove, addressing council for the SCC, “and I’d like to thank the town council for all the work you’ve done to get this going.”

Bruce Hoch, local business owner and long time skate park supporter, said, “I want to thank you guys ... we’ll make the donation we promised.”

At a previous meeting, Hoch had offered $3,000 for additional engineering needed to build a skate park in Town Park, with the condition that the project move forward in that location.

“I just don’t want to see any more setbacks,” Hoch added.

Hoch’s concerns were not unwarranted, as the project has experienced some difficulties over the past year. A March Greater Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant deadline was passed up when town Parks and Recreation Supervisor Tom Carosello cited the need for “contingency funds” (about $35,000) to eliminate the town’s commitment to potential cost overruns on estimates which, at that time, put the project’s price tag at about $350,000.

An August GOCO grant deadline was also missed after the location of the skate park was thrown into question. Originally set for construction on the southern end of Yamaguchi Park, on land owned by the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District (PSSGID), the location was scotched when the PSSGID board decided not to pursue the construction of a new town wastewater treatment plant.

Scrambling to find a new location for the project, the idea of a Town Park location was not floated until the Aug. 4 council meeting. That new location proposal, met with almost unanimous approval by council, required new site engineering and studies. At the Aug. 20 mid-month meeting, a funding request was put before council to pay for the necessary engineering for the project. With studies and engineering taking several weeks to complete, it was evident the town would not be able to meet the Aug. 26 deadline for the next GOCO grant cycle.

Furthermore, the Town Park location was met with opposition from many members of the community, a sentiment that appeared to sway several council members away from the idea.

During the Sept. 3 council meeting, Carosello recommended the location behind the post office. Despite some vocal opposition to the town’s change of heart by skate park supporters and SCC members, several members of council stated support for the post office location.

Council seemed determined to move forward with the post office location for the skate park at Thursday’s meeting, while skate park supporters appeared pleased that the town had at least made a decision to push the project forward.

“Options for further development are phenomenal,” said council member Don Volger. “I think it has amazing potential.”

After a motion by council member Jerry Jackson, and a second by Volger, council unanimously approved pursuing evaluation of the post office site.

Once evaluated and approved, the site will require a formal resolution by council to dedicate the property for the skate park for a period of 25 years in order to meet GOCO requirements for the grant.

In a dedication of another kind, council voted unanimously to name the new Town Park pedestrian bridge “Veterans Memorial Bridge,” as suggested by members of American Legion Post 108. A formal dedication will be held on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, with the American Legion paying for a plaque to be installed on the bridge for the dedication.

In other action, the Archuleta County Economic Development Association (AEDA) and the Humane Society of Pagosa Springs went before council to appeal for funding. Strictly speaking, the AEDA’s request had already been honored as council had approved a $15,000 line item disbursement (lowered to $12,750 after 15-percent budget cuts) for the organization in the town’s 2009 budget. In fact, AEDA Executive Director Bart Mitchell was not requesting funding per se, but was informing council how the budgeted money would be spent — $2,100 for an “Economic Gardening” Web site and $10,000 to commission a study on the personality traits of so-called “Lone Eagle” entrepreneurs.

For its part, the Humane Society sought additional funding from the council, to the tune of $6,500 over the $8,500 initially budgeted by the town.

“I think there should be a more systematic approach to funding requests,” said audience member Michael Whiting. “Not ad hoc requests.”

Council was reluctant to honor the Humane Society’s request on a number of grounds, the least of which went to Whiting’s point. Previously, council had asked for financial information from the Humane Society which, according to several council members, had never been received.

“I’m not willing to vote on this until we get information from the Humane Society,” said Jackson.

Council agreed that the Humane Society’s funding request would be tabled until they receive the financial information they requested.

Council meets again at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6, at Town Hall.