The city’s skate park was closed several weeks ago after city officials discovered it required repairs to its surface, said City Administrator Dale Neiman.
The park, which is not supervised on a regular basis, was designed for skateboarding only, said Neiman, but BMX bike riders are using it as much, if not more so, than the skateboarders.
Neiman said the city has liability issues if the park isn’t repaired; it also requires enforcement to make sure helmets and protective pads are being used.
“The bikes have damaged the surface and it needs to be replaced,” said Neiman.
He estimated it would cost between $6,000 to $8,000 to repair the park, but with serious budget problems – including a growing deficit due to unbudgeted unemployment benefits and new animal control costs – Neiman said the council needed to weigh what it could do.
“We’re suggesting that you wait to make a decision in January when we do a mid-year budget review so we know where we are financially,” said Neiman.
Councilmember Joyce Overton said if the city doesn’t repair the park the skaters will just go elsewhere; she said she already has seen them skating in the shopping center.
Overton said she and Neiman are talking about what it would cost to build a skate park for both bikes and skateboards.
She told the audience, composed mostly of skaters and bikers, “We would have to raise our funds ourselves, you guys.”
Councilman Roy Simons suggested investigating a better surfacing material that would last longer.
Neiman said the park was very inexpensive, and has incurred high maintenance costs.
Councilman Curt Giambruno, who said he has been involved with the skate park since the beginning, agreed that the park was not constructed correctly in the beginning. He said it’s his understanding that the pegs on the bicycles may be gouging the pavement.
Mayor Judy Thein said the council was in a difficult position. “We all want the skate park open. That isn’t the problem. It’s how do we do it.”
She suggested contacting other cities with skate parks to see how they address similar issues.
The city doesn’t have the money to make repairs, said Thein. However, she suggested that with five willing councilmembers, staff and a city of 14,000 people, they should be able to come up with solutions.
Community members appealed to the council to get the park reopened.
“This facility is of the utmost important to our youth and the community,” said community resident Jack Barker.
Without having a water park anymore, the city needs some place for young people to go, and bikes need to be included, said Barker.
Barker pulled out a $1,000 check from Comprehensive Support Systems, a company he works for, and offered it to the city to help the park repairs move forward.
If the city is looking for help with design, Barker suggested, “We don’t have to look too far for experts. They’re right here,” he said, pointing to the young people in the audience.
Ken Savin, a school employee who also works with the Calvary Chapel youth group, said that, since the Clearlake Skate Park has been closed, he has taken young people on weekend trips to the skate parks in Willits and Yuba City.
He said that parks that can accommodate both bikes and skateboards are usually designed specifically for dual use. Savin said he would like to see lights at the park and access for BMX riders.
Despite the desire expressed by community members to keep the park open and have it repaired, members of the council were united it expressing their concerns about the budget crunch.
“I don’t know where right now we would find the money,” said Simons.
He suggested putting the issue aside and creating a construction committee to analyze what needs to be done to the park to keep it safe. Then, the committee can pursue donations.
Giambruno said he would like to have the city go back to the manufacturer of the skate park surface and see if there is a sturdier material. Concrete, he said, is the best way to go but the city hasn’t had the money.
He said that he had found out about the Tony Hawk Foundation, founded for famed skater Tony Hawk, which had helped fund the Willits Skate Park and might help Clearlake since it focuses on assisting small cities.
“As far as dealing with this one tonight, we don’t have the money,” said Giambruno.
He suggested that, when the skate park reopens, the city will have to impose some tough rules and regulations, including keeping it closed during school hours and after dark, and requiring riders to wear helmets and pads.
Overton invited the teens in the audience to a meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, at the youth center on Golf Road, to discuss ideas about how to get the park reopened.
Police Chief Allan McClain said he would have staff research approaching the Tony Hawk Foundation for help.
According to the Tony Hawk Foundation Web site, www.tonyhawkfoundation.org, Willits received a $10,000 grant for its park in 2002.
E-mail Elizabeth Larson at email@example.com.