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- The Forecaster
PORTLAND — Members of the city’s ad hoc Skate Park Advisory Committee say they have not locked wheels on a site as they prepare to roll into City Hall on March 26.
But they do have three front-runners.
“We have been impartial, considering all best possible locations, doing due diligence, and trying our best to think of the city as a whole with what we have,” committee member Kirsten McWilliams said in an email March 20.
The City Council workshop next Tuesday, which will not pick a site for the park, has been shifted to 6:30 p.m. to allow comments from younger community members.
The 10-member committee began meeting last September and includes Councilor Kate Lewis, Anthony Johnson of the Parks & Rec Department, and Tom Long, former owner of Long’s Board Shop.
On March 26, the panel will review 20 sites it has considered. In a matrix of 13 categories, the highest scores were awarded to land at Legere Park in Knightville; outside Mahoney Middle School, and adjacent to South Portland High School and the South Portland Community Center on Evans Street.
Attributes studied included accessibility by foot or vehicle; proximity to the Greenbelt Trail; nearby parking, restrooms and food, and the potential for Community Development Block Grant funding.
Of the three top sites, only Legere Park would be eligible for U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development CDBG funding, which is passed on to the city by Cumberland County.
The park, which sits on 25,000 square feet at the western end of D Street along Waterman Drive, scored best with 16 points when CDBG funding was considered. Without the funding, it tied for second with High School Park at 14 points.
The land at Mahoney finished with 15 points, but with the caveat that the school’s future is uncertain. A referendum question for a new combined middle school is expected to be on the Nov. 5 ballot. If a school bond passes, the Mahoney site would be turned over to the city and a redevelopment process similar to the one at the former Department of Public Works depot on O’Neil Street would follow.
High School Park scored well for its visibility and access to public transit and restrooms, but has no food for sale within 1,000 feet. The park also ranked lowest for the number of people living within a 1-mile radius, although the Legere Park measurement also includes portions of Portland’s West End.
Committee member Jeff Woodbury said March 19 the public should be aware any park will be used by bicyclists and people riding scooters, which will also play into any final design.
While there is no specific cost estimate because there is no design or site, the committee did note the types of skate parks and potential cost factors in terms of construction and maintenance.
An indoor facility is considered too expensive due to the cost of construction. A prefabricated park, such as Scarborough’s, has lower construction costs but is more expensive to maintain.
A concrete park like Portland’s has a “median” construction cost, the committee found, and lower maintenance costs.
Concept designs provided by Pillar Design Studios and the American Ramp Co. estimate construction costs between $250,000 and $500,000, depending on size and materials used.
The city committee has a potential $15,000 CDBG grant and $25,000 in city funding for design work. Private funding, including business and foundation support, is anticipated to build a skate park.
With the availability of Community Development Block Grant funds, Legere Park on Waterman Drive scored best among potential sites for a South Portland skate park.
Fields outside Mahoney Middle School were rated best overall for a skate park, but the future of the school and land are uncertain.
High School Park, off Evans Street, was rated third in a site study for a South Portland skate park, in part because it lacks nearby places to buy food.