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[whitespace] Skateboarders roll proposal forward

Council backs study of sites

Los Gatos--Local skateboarders and their supporters rolled forward on Sept. 18, getting the unanimous support of the town council to do a further review of two possible skateboard park sites.

In front of a crowd that would have made the fire marshal wince, members of the skateboard park committee presented their recommendations for building a facility in Los Gatos. They presented three possible locations, the first choice being the empty town lot at the corner of Lark Avenue and Winchester Boulevard.

The council chose to have town staff and the subcommittee further evaluate the Lark and Winchester location, as well as Baggerly Field at Blossom Hill Park. Oak Meadow Park was the third possibility, but there was little public or council support for placing a skateboard facility in a park frequented by toddlers and seniors.

The two sites will be evaluated in terms of safety, design, neighborhood opposition and funding.

When the council settles on a site, the next step would be to appropriate approximately $25,000 to hire a skateboard park design expert to complete a feasibility study, budget and conceptual design.

"Back in February when we approached the council with this idea you asked the parks commission one key question--do we have a place for it," subcommittee member Steve Glickman, who presented a short video on local skateboard parks, said. "Now that we know there are places to put it, we can ask you to take the next step and allocate funds to have a professional skatepark designer look at these locations and design it."

Parks commission chairwoman Sheri Richter presented a pros and cons breakdown of the three sites, explaining how the subcommittee settled on the Lark/Winchester site as the best option. Considerations included proximity to neighbors, type of land and how easily a site would be to supervise, among others. Richter added an additional advantage to the Lark/Winchester location as well. "As a parent," she said, "what I like about this area is that the paramedics are right there."

Blossom Hill Park was also noted to have several advantages, including a multiuse theme already present and a close proximity to schools. However, it would also require the removal of grassy areas and would be in close proximity to residential neighborhoods.

Of the dozen young people present, several took their turn at the microphone, though the council attempted to keep testimony short by assuring supporters it was in favor of keeping the project alive. "Many businesses do not appreciate the presence of skateboarders on their property," Will Calhoun told the council. "But skateboarders mean no harm; they're just looking for a good time."

Another young skateboarder who spoke on behalf of the Lark/Winchester location presented a creative fundraising idea. "One thing we could do," John Freier said, "is for all the tickets skateboarders get on private property go towards a skate park."

Another funding mechanism that could help raise the estimated $200,000 to $300,000 necessary was presented by local YMCA representative Mario Vargas. Vargas is recently from San Diego, where he played a role in the creation of a large public park partly funded by the YMCA. His offers to help with the design of the park and moving the process forward were well-received by the council, which suggested Vargas and town staff begin working together.

In all, council members' comments were short on the matter. They questioned whether the neighbors of Blossom Hill Park and Lark/Winchester were really as supportive as the skateboard park subcommittee's informal survey showed.

The council also asked that staff include in their next report a response to resident John Tice, who expressed safety concerns regarding the lack of sidewalks northbound on University and Winchester. It is generally assumed that most skateboarders get to parks on their skateboards. Finally, in response to a short comment from the parent of a BMX bicyclist, the council asked staff to make the design of the park as inclusive to all uses as possible.

Following the meeting, Councilman Jan Hutchins said the project still had a number of much larger obstacles to clear. "The Lark/Winchester site was quite a contentious place when the PG&E substation went in [across the street]. It's not going to be as easy to get it done as it appeared last night," Hutchins said. He added that the park would make "a pretty good campaign issue for Steve," referring to Glickman's candidacy for town council.
Nathan R. Huff

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