LONG BEACH — A proposed skate park is still a long way from becoming a reality, but the Long Beach City Council took a crucial step at an Aug. 3 council meeting, by giving the city staff approval to begin searching for suitable properties.
That vote came about as the result of a July 21 workshop, where city leaders debated the pros and cons of building a skate park, addressed concerns raised by citizens and council members, and talked about what it would take to make it happen.
“What I got out of it is we need it in a visible place — somewhere people feel safe dropping their kids off,” said Del Murry, the Long Beach city councilman who is the driving force behind the skate park project.
Murry said about 30 members of the public attended the workshop, including local skaters, interested citizens and businesspeople from the downtown area.
Murry said much of the discussion at the workshop focused on where to build the park, which would cost between $200,000 and $400,000.
“I would like the city to donate a piece of property that we have or purchase a piece of property,” Murry said.
The city has informally considered a few locations over the last couple of years without settling on anything. Officials briefly discussed the site of a former filling station at the corner of Sid Snyder and Pacific Avenue. But that property is contaminated and has complicated title issues — the city maintains it, but doesn’t own it.
Another possibility is Stanley Ball Field — citizens have also suggested installing a dog park and community garden at the under-used and aging site. However, the city is hoping to win a grant that would make it possible to turn Stanley into youth sports facility. Another problem is that Stanley doesn’t have the kind of visibility that has made the crucial difference between family-friendly gathering place and hidey-hole for rogue youths at other successful community skate parks.
Murry said it’s possible that there are other, better locations the city hasn’t seriously considered yet. Now, City Planner Gayle Borchard and other city staff can spend some determining whether any of the city’s other properties are a good fit.
After that, the next step is to “Try to get something in the budget and put money toward it every year,” Murry said.
While some of the audience members came to the workshop to support the park, others said they wanted to get more information before forming an opinion.
Somewhat surprisingly, given the criticism the proposal has drawn from a few citizens, city council members said there was no one at the workshop who opposed the park.
“We have a lot of the community that knows what a value this would be not only for kids in our community but also for guests that come into town,” said Councilman Steven Linhart. He is in favor of building the park, but thinks it’s very important for citizens to be involved.
Back when there was a skate ramp in the space behind the tennis court at Culbertson Park, vandalism and rowdy behavior became a problem, drawing complaints from area residents, and leading the city to move it to a more remote location. Linhart thinks the city could avoid those problems by having residents and skaters participate the planning process, and making sure skaters feel responsible for maintaining the park.
Councilman Mark Perez said there will be much more discussion about the proposed park. He’s also encouraging citizens to get involved.
He’s been talking with one woman who has some reservations about building a new park, because she had bad experiences with the Culbertson skate ramp.
“She is kind of against it but has a lot of great ideas for dealing with the problems,” Perez said. “She’s done a lot of other legwork, calling other police stations to get their opinions about the problems.”
Perez says he is definitely in favor of building the park, provided that the city plans carefully to be sure the facility will be safe, appealing and welcoming.
“If they can deal with those things in the planning process, they can mitigate all the problems that might come about,” Perez said.