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Youth, organizers meet to decide on features for future town skate park

Several residents gathered at the Pagosa Springs Youth Center on Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, to declare, “I have a dream.”

Certainly that dream was considerably less ambitious than Rev. King’s, but it was one that has moved closer to reality as adults and children met at the PSYC to decide on features for a town skate park — a project that has seen numerous setbacks over the past few years, but finally may be moving forward to construction as early as this spring, with completion of the park possible by mid-summer.

Several area skateboarders, PSYC Director Joanne Irons, along with Skaters Coalition for Concrete (SCC, the grassroots organization that has worked the past several years to raise money for a skate park) member Mike Musgrove, Pagosa Springs Town Council member Shari Pierce and Pagosa Springs Parks and Recreation Supervisor Tom Carosello met to look at features that could be included in the plaza-style skate park, asking the skateboarders to choose their four favorite proposed features. Fortunately for the project, the skateboarders were all too happy to provide their input and appeared happy to be asked. Indeed, they appeared happy that a skate park was being built at all: “We thought this thing was never going to happen,” one skater said at the meeting.

In fact, until mid-December, it appeared that the town had thrown up its hands in its pursuit of building a skate park. After several fits and starts seeking funds for a facility (with some cost estimates running well over $400,000) and previously promised private funding drying up in the climate of a tough economy, it appeared that the skateboarders’ concerns were warranted. A grant application deadline in August 2010 for Greater Outdoor Colorado (GOCO) for the skate park was missed with not so much as a whisper from the town as plans for the project appeared to have been shelved in the dark and dusty closets of Town Hall.

Fortunately, Pierce was not quite ready to allow the project to go the way of a town recreation center. Having seen plans and costs for more modest plaza-style parks, Pierce realized that many municipalities had constructed parks for costs well below the previously proposed $400,000-plus price tag. Approaching the town’s Parks and Recreation commission in mid-December with the notion that she could probably convince council to put out $30,000 to complete the project (the town had previously committed to providing a portion of Yamaguchi Park for the skate park), Pierce said town money would supplement $50,000 allocated by the Archuleta Board of County Commissioners.

On Jan. 4, council approved a motion to release $30,000 for the project.

The tone at Monday’s meeting was friendly, a palpable enthusiasm by the skateboarders that something was finally moving forward and that they were being consulted in the facility’s overall design. However, after choosing the features they felt would be the most popular (or fun), the skaters were clear that their eye was on further expansion of the facility — a notion not rejected by Pierce, Irons or Carosello.

In fact, Irons stated that a completed skate park, with monies already expended by the county and town, along with the value of the land where the park would reside, could go a long way toward further expansion and additional features when leveraging future grant funding.

The skaters acknowledged the fact that there was a good deal of work to be done, both in the near and distant future (Irons stated she hoped to secure school credit for skaters diligent in working toward the completion of the park) and that they would have to police the skateboarding community (nixing graffiti, drug use, violence, etc.) to achieve a bigger, better park.

While Dr. King’s vision of racial comity, peace and social justice still has far to go, it was appropriate that the day celebrating his birth saw the Town of Pagosa Springs taking another step forward in the pursuit of a dream too long deferred: the completion of a park where kids can meet and skateboard through the area’s many sunny days.

jim@pagosasun.com