Mesa residents turn out to plan skate park
On the heels of a recent growth spurt, Mesa, Ariz., last year approved a half-cent quality-of-life tax initiative to make improvements for its 380,000 residents. Among the improvements were public safety and transportation upgrades, as well as the addition of a skate park.
Planning for the Reed Park Skate Court has involved nearly the entire community, from city officials to the children who will be using the facility when it is completed in 2000. “From the beginning, we knew there was tremendous interest in our providing this facility to the community, so it was important to us to involve the public in our planning process,” says Joe Holmwood, Mesa Parks, Recreation and Cultural Division director. As the planning process got under way, a variety of concerns surfaced. Officials worried about the liability involved in having an extreme sports facility, and they were concerned about the impact of a skate park on the neighborhood and on other park facilities.
To address those concerns, Mesa hired a local consulting firm, The Widforss Group, to assist in researching liability and to serve as a mediator in all public meetings. At the same time, the city established a 23-member planning committee, composed of architects, designers, parents, business owners, skaters and concerned residents. It also included representatives from the city’s Engineering Division, and police, risk management and parks departments.
The committee held three public meetings to obtain input from residents on the skate park. More than 250 people attended the meetings; 114 people attended the first meeting to show support for the skate park and to share design ideas. Liability concerns decreased after the planning team contacted several companies that insured skate parks. The planners discovered that fewer than 3 percent of the insured skate parks had incurred claims following injuries sustained at the park.
With the liability and support issues addressed, the planning committee proceeded with the skate park, hiring David Evans and Associates, a national architectural firm headquartered in Portland, Ore., as a consultant. Alan Fishman Associates, Laguna Beach, Calif., signed on as designer.
The architects got a number of ideas for the skate park from the committee representatives and from attendees of the public meetings. Skater Marty Murawski and his two brothers were among the youths who attended the first public meeting. “We wanted to be involved,” Murawski says. “We wanted to see it built right for skaters.” “We expected the skaters would be confrontational about their wishes,” says Planning and Development Administrator Bill Way. “But instead, we found them to be understanding and up to date on the building issues, and we were surprised that they kept liability in mind.”
For example, skaters requested that the architects change some features that were too challenging to ensure a safe environment. Skate shop owner Scott Matteson was surprised by the participants. “There were a lot of kids, end-users of the park, who showed up and had their opinions. I expected them to want half pipes – the bigger, more dangerous features – but they made their reasons clear [for their choices],” he says.
On Dec. 21, 1998, the Mesa City Council approved the plan for the Reed Park Skate Court. The facility, which will be open to skateboarders and inline skaters free of charge, will be built at a former lake site at an existing community park.
The facility will have three bowls of varying levels of difficulty, including a skate area for small children. It also will include grass, shaded areas and water fountains.
The Reed Park Skate Facility Steering Committee, including many of the original planning committee members, will oversee construction of the skate park and develop operations and maintenance guidelines. The committee will stay in place after the facility opens to provide input on rules, events, management, discipline policies, supervision expectations, concessions, instructional opportunities, accident/emergency procedures and safety education. The Mesa Parks, Recreation and Cultural Division will operate the facility and act as lead liaison on all issues.
This article was written by Deborah Kuzik, community relations assistant for the Mesa Parks, Recreation and Cultural Division.