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The Carletonian

Old Memorial emerges as skate park frontrunner

< recent Sunday afternoon, the grassy field next to the Old Memorial Park swimming pool in Northfield lay silent and empty.

If the Northfield Skateboard Coalition (NSC) gets its way, however, the site won’t remain empty for long.

Joe McGowan, the group’s co-founder, said that the site near Seventh and Nevada Streets “has been my choice since day one” for a proposed skate park in Northfield, under discussion for over three years.

Based on 21 criteria examined by the City Council and voted on at its Aug. 31 meeting, the site was also the top choice of four out of seven council members, and the second choice of two members.

The Memorial site received high marks in the categories of parking capability, safety of skaters, and integration into the community, among others.

At its Sept. 21 meeting, the City Council passed a resolution narrowing the skate park location options from ten to five. Those five include Memorial Park, Babcock Park and Spring Creek Park, plus the options to either use as-yet-undetermined school district land, or to create multiple smaller sites.

Despite this recent step towards finalizing skate park plans, though, “there is no timeline for planning or construction of the skate park,” according to council member Betsey Buckheit of the Second Ward, where Memorial Park is located.

Willing to Compromise

“There is almost no money for parks in the current budget or likely to be in years to come,” Buckheit said in an email.

This isn’t stopping the NSC from organizing an aggressive lobbying campaign for the skate plaza project.At a recent meeting, the group discussed plans to meet with one or more council members to discuss their thoughts on the locations being considered. While the coalition will push for the Memorial Park location, NSC members seemed willing to compromise on the site that is chosen, as long as a skate park is finally built.

The NSC is also working to allay concerns that some Northfield residents have about the potential impact a skate park would have on noise and traffic.

Joe Dokken, who lives on Fareway Drive near Memorial Park, said that while he generally supports a Northfield skate plaza, Memorial Field isn’t the place for it because it is not equipped to handle increased traffic flow and parking.

Far Enough Away

Most neighbors, do not seem overly worried by the prospect of noisy skaters next door. One resident whose backyard looks onto Memorial Field thought that “maybe the kids would be rowdy,” but she was confident that the police would resolve the issue if it became a major problem.

She added that she thought that Memorial Park “would be a fine place” for the proposed skate park. Dokken, who lives within earshot of Memorial Field, agrees that the site is “far enough away” from residents that that noise wouldn’t be an issue.

Aside from neighborhood concerns, other possible hurdles remain to be cleared.
Buckheit said that her constituents’ main issue with the Memorial Field location is that locating the skate park there would require abandoning a master plan for the park that was written two years ago.

Green Space

When the new outdoor swimming pool was built in Memorial Park in 2007, Buckheit said, residents collaborated with the council to formulate a master plan for the area, including large areas of green space and walking trails. One local resident, walking her three dogs along Seventh Street, affirmed this point, “I’d kind of like to have this park for the dogs to run in,” she said

A ninth-grader in a neighborhood near Memorial Park, who declined to give her name because of her friendship with skateboarder classmates, said that she had “mixed feelings” about Memorial Park being used as a skate park.

While she supports the idea of a skate park in theory, she is concerned that a park located near her home “wouldn’t bring good people” to the neighborhood. When she spent time alone at the temporary skate park, the teen said she “didn’t feel safe.” On the other hand, she said that the park would give skaters “an outlet,” and that if the park was built at Memorial Field, she might hang out there with friends.

A Good Place

Other neighbors are wholly supportive of a Memorial skate park. Tom Rockey, who lives on Nevada Street and has interacted with Northfield teenagers for decades as a retired German teacher at Northfield High School, said that Memorial Field would be “a good place” for the skate park.

Ultimately, however, with city funding for the skate park in doubt, the future of a Northfield skate park at Memorial Field or anywhere else is far from certain.

Speaking at the NSC’s weekly meeting last Wednesday, Joe McGowan was hopeful about the current atmosphere in Northfield towards a skate park. “People are talking,” McGowan said. “There have been rushes and there have been trickles—this is one of those rushes.”

Copyright @ 2009 Pressville

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