2017-03-03 / Community

Support the skaters

To support Emmons Whited and his effort to convince the South Portland City Council that a skate park is needed in the city, sign his Ride SoPo petition online at: www.change.org/p/south-portland-city-council-ride-so-po.

“We should all be able to scooter to the place where we are going to scooter,” agreed 12-year-old Emmet Russell.

The boys said that rational might compel the need for a similar park on the city’s west end, as well, and while they were not sure how much a skate park might cost to build, each expressed hope the city will support construction of at least one. Still, all agreed a good skate park does not need to be overly expansive, or expensive.

According to the website publicskatepark.org, most such facilities cost between $20 and $50 per square foot to build, with the average project falling closer to $40 per square foot. A 3,000-square-foot park should therefore cost about $120,000, the site says, noting that a site that size, with a few ramps and rails, and maybe even a small concrete bowl, would be big enough to “support a few skaters at a time.”

“An 8,000-square-foot neighborhood skate park will be $320,000 and will serve a neighborhood of about 25,000 residents,” the site claims.

However, another website, skatepark.org, posted in July 2012 photos of 43 poured concrete parks from across the country, all just like the one Emmons and his friends envision, and all built for less than $100,000. Some, it noted, cost as little as $30,000.

A 3,000-square-foot park in Standish designed and built by Who Skates, cost $43,000, according to the site.

According to South Portland Community Planner Stephen Puleo, the council could put a concrete skating yard in either Thomas Knight Park or Mill Creek Park without having to amend zoning, because it would be classified as a municipal facility. The project would only need to go before the planning board for a special exception exemption, he said on Tuesday, although city Planning Director Tex Haeuser said in a separate interview it might not even need that.

However, both agreed that if the development site end up being larger than 15,000 square feet (about one-third of an acre), those backing the skate park would need to file a site plan application for review by the planning board. Puleo also said that if the total impervious surface of the site was greater than 8,700 square feet (0.2 acres) that, too, would trigger site plan review.

But all that is down the road. Right now. Emmons continues to gather petition signatures while working with a student from the Maine College of Art on the sketches requested by Rose.

Whether Emmons’ skate park dreams becomes a reality or end up waste canned alongside the one Beecher once hoped to build, some say the experience of trying to make it happen is, by itself, a good education in civic engagement for he and his friends.

“I think this is a great opportunity for all of them to work toward something that would be good for them and the other kids in the community,” said Willard neighborhood parent Cybil Kipp.

Meanwhile, Emmon’ peers are impressed, and maybe a little awed at his drive.

In the words of 12-year-old Tuck Gora: “I think it’s really brave of him to get out there and try to do something for the community.”

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@inthesentry.com.

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