LONG BEACH - Last December the city of Long Beach decided to start construction on a skateboard park on oceanfront property by mid-March, but now appears to be shifting gears.

At the last City Council meeting it was announced that Culbertson Park, adjacent to existing basketball courts, is now the most likely site, with construction to begin in mid-April.

In December, Long Beach City Administrator Nabiel Shawa said the Bolstad approach site had the most support with the city council.

"That would be on city property," said Shawa in December. "We have undeveloped city right-of-way property out there."

According to Long Beach Mayor Dale Jacobson, the decision to change the site for a skate park was made after several city councilors looked at the idea for a Bolstad approach site. He said they were not comfortable with putting the skate park in that location when it is unsure how the area will eventually be developed.

Jacobson also said the city doesn't want to commit to such as site on the Bolstad approach as long as there is a question of what Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is going to do with the 45-acre Bolstad approach property it owns.

The initial decision to move ahead with a skate park was set in motion early last December by pressure on the city council in light of three youth suicides last fall and several accidental deaths of Peninsula youths.

Concerned citizens, such as Catherine Waltemate, took the city council to task when she spoke out at a Dec. 2 city council meeting and said she saw a tie between local youth on the Peninsula feeling disenfranchised and a definite lack of attention that gets paid to them, particularly when it comes to providing them with any type of resources or facilities such as a skate park or a youth center.

By the Dec. 16 council meeting, the city announced it was moving ahead with plans for a skate park.

"The recent turn of events has put more pressure on the city council to do something more for youth," said Shawa at the Dec. 16 meeting.

At that time Shawa said he was hopeful construction could begin by mid-March and be completed by May, but last week he said the most likely time construction would begin is some time in mid-April with a skate park completed some time this summer.

The city of Long Beach has earmarked $5,000 for the skate park, which has been matched by Pacific County, for a grand total of just $10,000.

At the Feb. 18 city council meeting, Shawa said it appears this amount is not nearly enough to construct a "street" skate park, which is basically a flat skate park that includes geometric features. He said a more realistic amount needed for such a park is in the range of $30,000.

According to Mike Kitzman, Long Beach parks supervisor, who attended a recent workshop for the skate park, there are local efforts being made to come up with grant money or donations to get to the $30,000 mark.

"We have talked to someone who constructs skate parks for a living and he said that $10,000 would not be enough to get a skate park that kids would want to use," said Kitzman. "It would just be a concrete slab and two other things."

According to Kitzman, he and others affiliated with the project would like to get more local businesses involved, which would want to donate not just labor, but materials.

Kitzman said he thinks Culbertson Park is an ever better location than the Bolstad approach. He said a skate park in Culbertson Park would fit in well with existing recreational facilities, including basketball courts, a baseball/softball field, playground and tennis courts.

"This way, if parents want to bring kids down to the park, there are already things there to do," said Kitzman. "I think it will get used more there. The main thing is getting something they want to come to, whether at the beach or Culbertson Park."

Long Beach City Planner Jim Sayce said a street style of skate park would be the most cost-effective and practical skate for the city to design and build.

Cities such as Astoria have built much more elaborate skate parks which incorporate bowls and grinds. The cost of the 11,000-square-foot Astoria skate park, which was completed in late 2001, totaled $177,000. Funding was made possible through grants from the Northwest Oregon Economic Alliance, Oregon National Guard and Oregon Community Foundation, and $34,000 raised by the community.

Shawa said the city is planning on using city staff for constructing the Long Beach skate park and also invited any local skateboarders or concerned citizens to pitch in and help.

According to Dominique Dust, former Tlohon-nipts Alternative High School teaching assistant, it was local seniors from both Tlohon-nipts and Ilwaco High School who first brought the idea for a skate park before the city council several years ago.

One of the things which was considered a plus about the Bolstad location was that it was an area large enough to permit future expansion. Kitzman said the Culbertson Park site also offers the same benefit, in addition to the fact that a new concession stand/restroom facility is currently under construction there.

"There is plenty of room to grow at the Culbertson site," said Kitzman. "Also there is a room for parking and the city owns the property."

Kitzman said at this time the design for the skate park is under review, and that a final design will be contingent on the amount of funding.

• An account has been set up at The Bank of the Pacific to accept donations for the Long Beach skate park project. Check should be made out to: City of Long Beach Skate Park Fund, and can be sent to: The Bank of the Pacific, P.O. Box 738, Long Beach, WA 98631.

• To volunteer to work on the project or to donate materials, contact Mike Kitzman at 642-2203 or Long Beach City Hall at 642-4421.

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