Support grows for skatepark

In an unprecedented display of comity between county, town, and community groups and residents, a proposed skatepark project has garnered enough comprehensive support to suggest that ground could be broken as soon as early summer.

Yet, in spite of substantial, broad-based support from numerous area residents, businesses, and representatives from both the town and the county, finalization of the project depends on approval of several details at the state, county and town levels. Indeed, the immediate future of the project appears, at times, to be as tenuous and timorous as a newby’s first ride on a skateboard. Tremulous though that ride might be, it is gaining momentum and may either end up triumphant — or in a spectacular crash.

At the Monday evening Parks Recreation Open Space and Trails (PROST) committee meeting, members unanimously recommended that the Archuleta County BoCC designate up to $50,000 of county 1A funds for the skatepark project. Commenting on the task force recommendation, PROST chair Michael Whiting said, “The skatepark is in line with the parks and rec master plan and, of all the projects, they (supporters of the skatepark) have their act together.”

With clear direction from the task force, Archuleta County special projects manager Karin Kohake drafted a resolution requesting the 1A funds, for consideration during the Feb. 17 BoCC meeting.

Community support for the project was pronounced at the PROST meeting, as several local businesses provided in-kind donations. Hart Construction promised up to $10,000 in excavation, equipment and labor; A & M Construction donated $10,000 in excavation services, Hard Times Concrete donated $8,000 in concrete, and Four Corners Materials donated 10 yards of concrete.

Community involvement by individual residents has also been evident, as when the Skaters Coalition for Concrete (SCC), the grassroots organization that has been raising money for the skatepark project, was given a huge boost last Friday with a $10,000 donation from the Koch family.

“This is in honor of Tom,” said Alana Koch, referring to her late husband, who passed away in late 2005 after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer, “it’s not just for his children and his grandchildren but for all the kids of Pagosa Springs.”

A local resident for 14 years, Koch went on to say, “Tom was an old skater, one of the original old skaters. He would have been really proud of the town, that it’s doing something for the kids.”

“This kind of support,” said Tom Carosello, town parks and recreation director, “Really shows community involvement and helps sustain a worthwhile project. It’s an exemplary gesture on the part of the Koch family.”

The donation ups the ante for further philanthropic matches, nearly doubling the amount raised by the SCC — just over $22,000 in its account. In November, The Springs Resort and Spa owners Keely Whittington-Reyes and Nerissa Whittington committed a $50,000 matching grant for all money raised for the skatepark. Although the matching grant was originally structured to match private donations, Whittington-Reyes sent a letter to the SCC on Feb. 7, qualifying all donations for the match, essentially committing the entire $50,000 towards construction of the project.

“Our letter reiterates our support from the Springs Resort and the Whittington family for this,” said Whittington-Reyes, “We’re excited to see progress on this project. Hopefully, ground gets broken this summer.”

Should the BoCC agree to allocate $50,000 in 1A funds for the skatepark, the next step would be applying for a Greater Outdoors Colorado (GOCO — money collected from state lottery earnings) grant for $200,000. The application, due in early March, would cover the bulk of the cost for the 8500 square foot skatepark with an estimated price tag of $350,000.

However, the grant is also contingent a designated location for the skate park. Although a site just south of the Sports Complex — an abandoned lagoon from the old water treatment system — has been scoped for the project, no commitment has been officially given to designate the site for the project.

In fact, the contingent site is currently property of the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District although, according to town Sanitation Supervisor Phil Starks, the district has already donated the property to be used for the project. “Coster has already surveyed the site,” Starks said, “It’s just a matter of filing the official paperwork for the deed.”

However, before the town could secure the deed and commit the property for the project, a metes and bounds survey would need to be completed for the provision of a legal description of the property. Darryl Coster, surveyor for the project, said he would be happy to complete the metes and bounds survey, “It can be done real quick, if all they’re looking for is a legal description, I can have that done immediately.”

Furthermore, Pagosa Springs Ross Aragon said he would include a resolution on the agenda for the Feb. 19 mid-month council meeting that would commit the property for the project. “If that’s all it needs,” said Aragon, “It’s a done deal.”

“I’ve heard nothing but positive responses for this project,” said town manager David Mitchem, “I’m optimistic that it will get done.”

With ample support from many Pagosa area individuals and businesses, the future of the skatepark resides with the approval of the BoCC, the Pagosa Springs town council, and securing a GOCO grant. With time running out, the project cannot afford any setbacks or equivocation, if it is to become something more than a trail to nowhere. All parts and all players will have to meet in perfect unison during the next week in order to move forward with the project. With the gamble being that all parts fall exactly into place, the future of park looks much like riding a skateboard: risking the fall for the thrill of getting it done.

jim@pagosasun.com