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Skate park down on paper

by Sheila Gardner

Carson Valley’s first skate park is finally down on paper.

The facility, which would cost $400,000 to $500,000, is proposed for property on Patricia and Tillman in the Gardnerville Ranchos, about half a mile south of the Gorman’s shopping center. The first public hearing on the skate park tentatively is scheduled for Aug. 5.

Community Services Director Scott Morgan said final determination will be made after the public hearings and with the approval of Douglas County commissioners.

“Nothing is set in stone other than an idea,” Morgan said. “We go through two public hearings before we make a recommendation to the commissioners. We will also go to the Gardnerville Ranchos General Improvement District board of trustees because it affects their area and we want to make sure we would be good neighbors.”

The site, designed by landscape architect Sandra Wendel, is on 2-1/2 acres. It contains space for a dirt BMX bike course and a 14,400-square-foot concrete skate park area with an adjoining practice area for beginners.

A half-acre of the site would be set aside for a one-vehicle fire station.

“I support the project; it’s long overdue,” said County Commissioner Steve Weissinger, who represents the Gardnerville Ranchos.

“I think it’s a win-win proposal,” he said. “This is something the youth of Douglas County have desired for a long time. With this project we can also address some drainage issues on Tillman at the same time.”

Morgan said it is difficult to predict what the public’s reaction might be, thus the hearings.

“Where things have kind of derailed has been when we’ve attempted to identify a location. Everybody wants a skate park, but we’re not all on the same page when we try to identify a site. That’s why we let the public process take effect. We want to make sure that everything is done as much as possible for the public. It’s not just an initial expense for the skate park. There are ongoing expenses for operation and maintenance and we have to have as much community involvement as possible,” he said.

n No drugs, alcohol. Weissinger said the county would insist that the skate park be drug- and alcohol-free.

“It’s my feeling with the proper buffer zones and landscaping, we can mitigate and address neighbors’ concerns. There will be eight or 10 property owners whose backyards will border the park. We don’t want this to be a nuisance to the people in the neighborhood. These are $125,000-$150,000 homes. That represents a life investment for these people,” Weissinger said.

Morgan said the plans have been presented to the Parks and Recreation Commission, an advisory board to county commissioners.

“There has been a priority with the Parks and Recreation Commission to develop a series of skateboard parks in Douglas County. This particular project is selected to be the first,” Morgan said. “We have no agenda for one particular site. It’s really a community decision and a community process. We rely on the advisory board to guide us.”

Vicki Bates, a proponent of the skate park for the past five years and an advocate for the past two years, said she is delighted with the plan’s progress.

“I am thrilled to death. I’m just hoping it will go through this time,” she said. “We’re persistent, if nothing else.”

She said supporters of the park will do their best to answer residents’ concerns.

“It depends on what they’re concerned about,” she said. “If you talk to any other community where there is a skate park, there is always a contingent worried that horrible things will happen. But, invariably, six moths later, they’re all saying how pleased they are and that the park is a wonderful asset to the community.”

Bates became interested in the project because “I have a son who was a fanatical skateboarder.

“The only place he could skateboard was in our driveway,” she said. “When I was a kid, we could go to parks and skateboard or at the schools. Now, there is no place. The only solution is to take our kids to Carson City or up to the Lake.”

Bates said skateboarding appeals to children who prefer individual to team sports.

“Team sports are not for every kid. Skateboarding is good exercise. I so much prefer that my son is out skating with friends than sitting in front of the computer or the TV. They can burn off some energy.”

n Parent helpers. Weissinger said he anticipated that parents of skaters would volunteer to monitor the skate park.

“If there is drug or alcohol use at the park, I would strongly recommend severe action. If it becomes a nuisance, I would have no problem shutting it down. It must be a safe place for kids to go,” Weissinger said.

Sheriff Ron Pierini said he has been in favor of the park for several years.

“I took it upon myself to explore different areas that have skate parks. I watched kids participate, talked to them and didn’t see any negative aspects at all,” Pierini said.

n Undercover. The sheriff said he went to Carson City to watch kids use the skate park at Mills Park.

“They didn’t have a clue who I was. I just sat on the edge and spent an hour there during an extremely busy time. There was no arguing, cussing or bullying. I asked the kids if there were any gang problems and they said no. The kids were courteous to each other and looked like they were having a lot of fun.”

Pierini said he understands people might be skeptical at first, especially if the park is located in their neighborhood.

“In my opinion, there is a need for the skate park and it has to go somewhere,” Pierini said. “I think that sometimes a group of individuals can be labeled as potential problems and people react to that without really knowing all the facts.”

Pierini said the sheriff’s department would monitor the park and take any necessary corrective measures.

“If there is a problem, we would make that a priority and increase patrols in the area, and increased interaction with the kids,” Pierini said.