- Police Beat
- The Forecaster
SOUTH PORTLAND — The effort to establish a skate park is rolling on, but without a potential Knightville site that generated neighborhood opposition.
City councilors on Tuesday instructed the ad hoc Skate Park Advisory Committee to conduct feasibility studies for sites at Mahoney Middle School, two near South Portland High School, and land behind the Cash Corner fire station off Main Street.
Legere Park on Waterman Drive, which scored highest in the committee’s evaluation, will not be considered.
“To me, Legere Park would be a sad and perhaps harmful loss of green space,” Councilor Sue Henderson, who lives on E Street in Knightville, said after an hour-long public hearing produced broad opposition to the inclusion of Legere.
Consensus remained, however, that a skate park is needed.
“I think (Legere) park has got a higher calling now, given there are other spaces in the city,” Mitch Sturgeon, who also lives on E Street, said.
One of the high school sites, near athletic fields, tennis courts and the South Portland Church of the Nazarene, was never considered by the committee.
The site emerged as a potential choice after a conversation between City Manager Scott Morelli and School Superintendent Ken Kunin about using High School Park, across from the South Portland Community Center.
“Ken mentioned that another possible location in that same vicinity would be a parcel of land known as the lower field. He was sure to caveat his comments with the fact that the School Board hadn’t discussed this potential, nor was he sure that he could support locating a skate park there,” Morelli said Wednesday.
But Morelli’s comments and those from councilors were enough to build council support for adding it to the feasibility study.
A study is expected to cost $32,000 to $39,000. Anthony Johnson, the city recreation operations manager, on Wednesday said a consultant will be selected after a request for proposals is issued.
The study will be funded by a $15,000 Community Development Block Grant and $25,000 from the city’s fiscal year 2020 capital improvement plan. The CIP funding will be available July 1 if councilors approve the plan.
City officials said the goal is to have the park open by the summer of 2020, when skateboarding is scheduled to be included for the first time in the Summer Olympics.
Initial construction cost estimates, exclusive of a study, range from $250,000 to $500,000.
Johnson led the hour-long committee presentation Tuesday, with six other committee members taking part.
“Although most of the public that got up to speak were Knightville residents in opposition of it being in Legere Park, almost everyone was in favor of having a park somewhere in the city,” he said.
Councilor Maxine Beecher, one of the councilors who supports looking at the second high school site, said the committee’s work on sites, potential costs and designs was “way beyond what I dreamed of.”
The 20,000-square-foot site behind Cash Corner fire station is on wooded ground. It was ranked fourth by the committee and is in a neighborhood where Councilor April Caricchio said she already sees plenty of skateboarding.
The site is also in an area eligible for CDBG grants because of its demographics, although it scored lower than Legere Park, Mahoney Middle School and High School Park because of its lack of parking and access to the Greenbelt Trail, and its distance from schools.
An outlying field at South Portland High School is now a potential site for a new skate park.
A 20,000-square-foot lot behind the Cash Corner fire station in South Portland will be studied for construction of a skate park.