Major, matching grant offered to skatepark project

Due to the current economic squeeze, plans for a skate park located on the south side of the sports complex could be facing a sketchy stretch of pavement. However, with the design phase nearly complete and donations rolling in, skateboarding enthusiasts are hoping for something buttery up ahead.

A major step in fund-raising came through this week when The Springs Resort and Spa owners Keely Whittington-Reyes and Nerissa Whittington offered a $50,000 matching grant on Tuesday for the construction of the skatepark.

According to Whittington-Reyes, the donation will be applied after an equal amount has been raised, either through community or town efforts. Currently, about $25,000 has been raised through fund-raising and individual donations.

“I went to the meetings and I listened to the kids,” said Whittington-Reyes, “I was impressed with how they handled themselves, how involved they were with the process. I think they need to feel that the community is behind them. They’re really great, dynamic kids.”

Whittington-Reyes added that she felt it was important to contribute something to the community that would give local kids, who aren’t involved in team sports, a place to call their own. As such, the concept of a well-built and planned skatepark has been the dream of so many who do not find Friday night football the end all in entertainment.

For the past several years, the Skaters Coalition for Concrete (SCC) has organized to get a new skateboard park built in Pagosa Springs. With designs for the park almost complete, the SCC could realize its dream by as early as next summer — provided the money is there.

The park is being funded from a mixture of private donations, Greater Outdoors Colorado (GOCO — money collected from state lottery earnings) grants, and matching funds from the town’s capital improvement budget. Basically, if private donations can meet a funding threshold set by the town — preliminary estimates put the amount at about $100,000 — the town will match those funds to qualify the project for the GOCO grant.

GOCO would be offering as much as $120,000 for the project.

When asked if the town, faced with uncertain economic conditions and a tightening budget, would go fulfill its promise to match funds for the project, interim Town Manager Tamra Allen said, “In the proposed 2009 budget, there is money programmed for the skate park.”

Still, the skate park is substantially short of its fund-raising goal and the SCC continues to solicit donations for the park. People interested in donating money to the park can go to the SCC Web site (www.skaterscoalitionforconcrete.com/donate.php) for more information on how to make a donation.

Although donations of $100 will get the donor’s name on a “recognition plaque,” the SCC has been pushing its “tile program” for donors, in which a $250 donation would get the donor’s name on a 4x4-inch tile on a Recognition Wall while a $500 donation would buy a 4x8 tile. Finally, donations of $1,000 or more would get the donor’s name on a designated design element such as a bowl, ramp or bench. Local interests can also donate materials (concrete, fill dirt, rebar, etc.). All donations are tax deductible.

In the meantime, excitement for the project continues to build among local citizens as the design process moves forward.

Over the past few months, skaters and interested citizens have come together to discuss the design concepts for the park. With several meetings at Town Hall behind them, the SCC has moved closer to a final design for the project. Designs for a new skatepark are just about finalized and can be viewed at www.pillardesignstudios.com by clicking on the ‘community involvement’ link, clicking the blog link, then typing in ‘pagosa’ in the user name field and ‘skatepark’ in the password field.

According to town parks and recreation director Tom Carosello, estimates for the park’s construction should run about $300,000. “With donations coming in and the town matching, we should be where we need to be to submit the GOCO grant,” said Carosello. “If we could get the county to pay their fair share, we might not even need the grant.”

According to Carosello, county residents are estimated to account for 80-85 percent of town park and recreation program use.

Until uncertainties surrounding governmental funding for the project are cleared up, the SCC and its supporters soldier on with their fund-raising efforts. The Springs Resort and Spa will host an event Saturday, from 5-8 p.m., featuring the latest Warren Miller ski and snowboarding movie, passes for the pools and refreshments. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for kids 12 and under, with proceeds going towards matching The Springs Resort’s donation offer.

With less than a year to go for the projected construction of the project, the SCC hopes more residents will step forward with donations to help make the skate park a reality.

jim@pagosasun.com