Public Open House for Ames Park Master Plan tonight; focus on Skate Plaza

ames-overview-1 There’s a Park and Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB) meeting tonight, with an Public Open House for Ames Park Master Plan scheduled (PDF). The meeting will be at 7:00 PM, in the Northfield High School Lower Cafeteria.

According to this Sat. Nfld News article, the focus will be on the skate plaza. I’m not sure why the PRAB doesn’t offer that detail.

According to the Oct. PRAB minutes:

B. Erickson reported that 4 responses were received concerning the Ames Park Master Plan project by the October 3rd deadline. Bonestroo, with project manager John Slack will be awarded the contract. The firm and the project manager are both familiar with the City and with the downtown area and have completed a skateboard park project. Mr. Slack is currently the project manager for the Fifth and Water Street project and will insure a consistent design from Downtown to Highway 3 along Fifth Street.

Alas, there’s still no Park System Master Plan on the City’s web site, even though it was approved by the Council on Nov. 17.

36 thoughts on “Public Open House for Ames Park Master Plan tonight; focus on Skate Plaza”

  1. Griff –

    I received an e-mailed invitation to the Open House a week or so ago. It gave me the impression that the discussion was about the overall design for all of Ames Park. I’m not sure why the Northfield News seemed to put a Skate Plaza focus on the gathering.

    Over the years, I’ve heard a number of ideas regarding that park. These include a band shell, a cow-of-welcome, a few parking spaces for vehicles, and a changeable sign notifying folks about upcoming community events.

    Personally, I think it would be unfortunate if all the discussion was about the skate plaza. I think we might miss out on some potentially good ideas.

    – Ross

  2. I know it’s none of my business now, but I just can’t help myself…

    Please Northfield, don’t do it. Don’t build another (emphasis on another) Skate Park. Especially in this very public, very visible place. It would be a poor choice made for the wrong reasons.

    Skateboarding and other forms of skating are trend sports. Their popularity ebbs and flows with whatever is happening in youth cultures on the east and west coasts. Building skate park in this very prominent place would be a big mistake – and an expensive one at that.

    Please don’t do it.

  3. Good to have you chiming in, Scott. Do you have any stories that relate to your concerns? What’s the skatepark situation in Eden Prairie?

    I might have agreed with you a few years ago but I’ve seen no signs that skateboarding is on the wane or likely to be so anytime soon. It’s become a ‘culture’ not just a sport. And it’s now as big in urban areas as suburban. NY Times a year ago: Skateboarding Rolls Out of the Suburbs: What was once a mostly white activity expands its audience.

    Tony Hawk, the veteran skateboarder who oversees an empire of video games, equipment and extreme-sport tours, heads Stand Up for Skateparks, which has raised funds for the construction of over 300 skate parks in low-income areas. “Every community says they get used more than any other sporting facility they have — any basketball court, any tennis court, any baseball field,” Mr. Hawk said.

  4. Scott; of course its your business because you live here and, more importantly, you love soccer. Griff, the reason why kids in low-income areas turn to skateboards instead of baseball or tennis is cos there is no soccer.

  5. The Tony Hawk skatepark in Encinitas CA is still a draw. Does anyone know if 3rd Liar is still open in Minneapolis and how are they doing. My problem with Ames is it is pretty visible. Will kids really want to use it?

    Griff, I tend to agree with you. It has gone from being a youth trend to a culture and lifestyle. It used to be the only long board skateboards were seen on the west coast. Now I see more and more kids in NFLD using the long boards like a scooter for transportation.

  6. First of all, I support a skate park. I don’t think it will end up out of fashion, as tennis courts have become, yet there is the concern that the design going out of style could lead to blasting out several tons of concrete a decade or so from now.
    My concern is that the river is not easily seen from the highway, which is lined with a lot of concrete, asphalt and buildings. It seems a shame to give up such a valuable piece of downtown greenspace for more concrete. It also seems problematic to ban skateboarding through downtown and then build a park where you’re not allowed to skateboard to it. The approach seems destined for ongoing conflict and frustration on all sides.
    I know the decision has been made, but it would seem that if the skateboard park could be in a more suitable space, Ames Park could be a scenic entry to the downtown, much as Duluth has made its Rose Garden a marvelous entry to its downtown. The idea is to have a public space with a gazebo and garden, which has become popular for weddings, prom photos and other milestone events. Ames easily could be used for weddings and outdoor receptions. I know there is a gazebo along the river, but the location has limited space.
    Duluth has a rose society with many many vounteers who come and help care for the roses, which have become a major tourist attraction. Northfield may not choose roses, but even paths and shrubs and delineated reception spaces could lend turn the space from so-so to wow.
    You can see a photo here http://www.superiortrails.com/duluth-rose-garden.html
    Just a thought.

  7. Griff: Numbers don’t lie. Count the numbers of kids that own and regularly use skateboards. Then compare it to the number of kids who swim or ice skate or bicycle or sing or read books or play soccer. There’s no comparison. If you go by the numbers, skating is a niche activity. It’s a foolish use of such a key piece of public space to devote it to a niche activity, especially at the price of excluding most other activities from that space is foolish

    We have two skate parks in Eden Prairie. They are unfenced and unsupervised. They are in parks adjacent to ample parking and other active areas like tennis and basket ball courts. The “attractions” (ramps, rails, etc.) are below the height threshold set by the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (the same provider of liability insurance for both Eden Prairie and Northfield) that requires security and supervision while the facilities are in use.

    The skate parks get moderate use, and we have 4x the population of Northfield. Maybe even more than that if you throw in kids from adjoining ‘burbs.

  8. David: Yes, I was the city administrator when the City built its first skate park in 1998. I think it was 1998. Could have been ’97.

    Anyway, it was not my dream. It was spearheaded by then Mayor Bill Rossman. Bill wanted to provide a place for skaters to call their own. He led a process that included skaters in the search for a site and the design of the park itself.

    We selected the site; held neighborhood meetings; researched other skate parks; and negotiated the operations requirements with our insurance provider. This was something new in the municipal insurance world, so it was tricky.

    The use of the park started out great. We charged a fee to help pay for the seasonal employees who opened, supervised and closed the park everyday. The fee was a couple of bucks per skater per day. It was set low. The goal was to cover the employee cost, not make money or cover the capital costs of building the thing.

    There were immediate conflicts between skate boarders and inline skaters, quickly followed by conflicts between skaters and bikers. I faced the fury of an angry mom who brought her kids up to Northfield from Mankato with their trick bikes to ride in our park. We said no, and boy was she mad.

    Ultimately, the skaters lost interest in the park because they weren’t allowed to smoke, smart off and be rebellious to our supervisor. They ticked off the neighbors too by being loud and obnoxious. Slowly, they stopped coming. The City then cut back hours because of the lack of demand. And slowly slowly it went away.

    I would imagine the same process working its way through at the Ames Park site, only the park is much more expensive and more difficult to take down when it eventually fails. Plus, it would be a giant eyesore in a very public place, just what Northfield does not need right now.

  9. Scott,
    Thank you very much for your insight into this proposal.

    If the city is committed to building a new skate park somewhere in Northfield, where do you think might be the best location, and what general advice would you offer to make it a positive and well-used facility?

  10. As a long-time member of the Adult Board at the Key, I must provide a different perspective on the old skate park.
    At the time, there was a tremendous amount of skate board activity on Division St, and it seemed to center on the intersection between the two banks , just east of Bridge Square.
    It was dangerous for everyone, the boarders and the drivers. There was a real possibility that a kid would be hit by a car; for a while it was ‘fun’ to grab onto a car’s back bumper and get ‘towed’.
    People got pretty agitated about the potential for accidents, and Mayor Rossman initiated the idea of an ‘exchange’; the city would create an ordinance prohibiting skateboarding in the downtown, and in ‘exchange’, the kids would get a skateboard park.
    We got the ordinance; the kids got A park, but did not have the necessary youth input as to design, location, operating procedures, etc. In fairness, this was earlier in the skateboard culture, and the city was not very enlightened about what the culture called for, in order to make the tradeoff successful.

    Without going into all the details, it was a dismal failure after the initial trial period … fenced, a fee, limited hours, poor selection of features (lack of kid design input), off-in-a-corner location, and a myriad of staffing problems. There was also some VERY bad behavior by kids, to attendant staff, as a result of regulations, uneven hours, poor expectations, and general resentment of what the kids felt was the inequality of the ‘exchange’.

    If you will listen to, and value, the youth input on this matter ,and had been here during the original process, I think you will find this to be a fair analysis, which is not just from the city’s POV.

    Now we have this exceptional group of kids that is known as the Skateboard Coalition. They have worked for over two years in a steady (meeting once a week) productive, very structured manner toward their goal of getting a great skatepark.

    They’ ve raised over $30,000 just on the strength of their dedication, their design , and a hopeful IDEA!

    Yes, I am very supportive of this project, but I can also very honestly say it would be unusual to find an adult work group in Northfield that has progressed so deliberately, and productively … just on hope.

    The design is fabulous. It can be used as a concert stage as well as the Skate PLAZA it is intended to be. It was designed by boarders, and they’ve looked at, and traveled to other parks all over the country! It was also designed with a practical look at insurance limitations.

    It is inexpensive for this type of facility, it is impervious to the weather; it is like a giant street sculpture … and here’s the truly great part … failing to secure its first preferred location at old Memorial Park, by the pool, it has landed in the most underutilized piece of public land in the center of town: Ames Park, a giant goose-poop field that is used for a few days a year for the carnival.

    There’s another great part, and this is the part where the adult community gets to affirm what a bunch of great kids… sorry , I know I’m supposed to say “Youth”… we have in this town. Great students, great contributors to our civic life by their service projects, great artists, great athletes ( Yeah Raiders!)great musicians, great organizers, on and on…

    ***It’s time to show the community , and all the highway travelers at 3& 19, how this community values its Youth, by putting that skate plaza right at the entrance to our town. ***

  11. Kiffi- You touched on something that I don’t remember being addressed in the site location- geese. It hadn’t occured to me, at least. Will there be enough use of the facility to discourage the influx of the geese? With the proximity to the river, I see some difficulties in trying to redirect nature. I’m not saying this is a deal breaker, but I forsee some maintainence issues in the future. Looks like one more thing for the parks crew to stay ahead of.

    As far as your assessment of the kids behavior in the original park, are you saying it was “…a result of regulations, uneven hours, poor expectations, and general resentment of what the kids felt was the inequality of the ‘exchange’…”? Seems like this was a missed oportunity for some of these youth to learn to adapt to a situation. This is just part of growing up. My wife’s famous quote to our children when they were growing up was, “Remember, sometimes you just don’t get what you ask for.” This has served them well into their adulthood and given them the ability to adapt. In fact, I would opine that this could be some good medicine for some involved in discussions of the liquor store debacle.

    I admire the youth that have been involved in the planning of the new park. They have done an excellent job of organizing, presenting their case and appealing to the city government. I know one of the leaders very well. Hopefully, some of the mistakes made in the original park plan will be avoided this time. Time will tell on that one, though. The age group that uses these types of facilities can be pretty caustic at times. There is much wisdom needed in interacting with and leading them. I don’t think they want to be worshiped. I think they just want to be treated with respect.

  12. I am in favor of a skate park somewhere. I think next to the pool would be a good choice. There may well be others.

    On the river, at the gateway to our city, seems to be an exceptionally poor choice of location.

  13. Patrick : I must heartily and respectfully disagree with you comment :”On the river, at the gateway tour city, seems to be an exceptionally poor choice of location. ”

    On the river, well, all the way up to the highway is the basic floodplain as well as the 100 year floodway designation. The restrictions associated with those designation make the land virtually unusable except as open space. The skate plaza is a structure that would be acceptable in that designation.

    Secondly, a bandshell has been occasionally mentioned for that land, but the highway noise is too voluble for most music; however most of the youth bands could compete with the highway noise.

    Thirdly, as i said before … to me the statement that the very visible placement there , at the gateway to our community, says volumes about how we value our youth population, does it not? Is it only to lip-service that we care, A LOT, about our kids? We have as a community invested a lot of money, in our school district and support of extra levies, in our soccer fields, and in our youth orchestras and choirs.

    We need to show this segment of the youth culture that we will support them also; the cost is minimal, and indeed the city has charged the Skateboard Coalition with raising a higher percentage of the cost privately than has been asked of any other sport facility.

    We need to reward diligence,perseverance and just plain hard work by this group. Adults are rewarded with more, for less.

  14. Kiffi,
    Another message the location could just as easily communicate: “we encourage our kids to play near high-speed traffic.”

  15. Patrick: “Our kids” often cross the Hwy 3 and 19 intersection to go to Taco Bell , Caribou, or the Movie rental store, or maybe even Walgreens.
    I am confident that they can handle practicing and enjoying their sport on a skate plaza in a 2 1/2 Acre field.

  16. I wouldn’t want a permanent football field or soccer field or basketball court at Ames Park, but that doesn’t make me opposed to kids. I just think it’s good to explore all the options before the concrete is poured.
    I think Mr. Neal raises some good points about the amount of use the facility will get. It might be good to talk to him more about this.
    I feel the highway/entrance to downtown very much needs a stretch of greenspace to offset all the brick and concrete and asphalt. Riverside Park and the surrounding area offer open space, parking and could offer restrooms shared with the rest of the park and the nearby veterans memorial. There is a skating rink there now that could become a permanent winter attraction, with a warming facility/restroom/meeting space that could be used for the skatepark and playground in the summer. There’s access to trails and sidewalks and it’s still very visible from the highway.
    I respect the folks who are supporting Ames, I just think that Bridge Square is stretched to its limits at times. It would be good to have a space for larger events as well as a landscaped public gathering spot.

  17. Kiffi/Patrick,

    I think a key to the location is the ability to skateboard TO the park. That seems to preclude downtown unless the rules are changed.

    I agree the park is important, & I want to see it done right.

  18. Like the skatepark idea and the kids deserve it they’ve worked hard. However, I too would like to see it down by the dog park as a year round facility.

  19. Kiffi, re: #11, how sweet, half of me believes you. I am seeing a coming together of the inspiration for a park which I began with discussions and posting of model parks info and extending my offer to help way back in 2003 as my building was being build and I met and learned to distinguish between The Key kids, wannabees, miscreants and various mixtures. I got diverted from my role as ‘helper’ by the perpetual abuse I have received from the kids who felt that they could terrorize the downtown because they were cheated by the old ordinance vs park betrayal.

    To the plan schemetic posted above, I would add, Where are the drinking fountains, 2 full-size all-weather, handicapped accessible bathrooms; and, sorry, but where are the designated spitting areas?; the trash containers – maybe they should be part of the course equipment since all the other steps, benches, railings, etc., seem to have a dual role (including practice for rebel downtown boarding), might as well have practice trash bins too. And where do some of the older kids and the folks who come for the show park? And who monitors the language level and expletives which will loft out over the lovely sculpture park across the river into bridge square (and drown out the Cannon Valley Regional Orchestra concerts there?); and, for that manner, what is the plan for buffering the high-decibel boarding sounds (noise) in general (part of the fun seems to be making noise).

    Ok, I’m only being half sarcastic. I might be more convinced if the new ‘trade-off ordinance’ were amended to include a $100 fine for downtown (out of park) violations.

    Where am I going with this? The skateboard culture might have a a longer tail than on the mouse you drew. Here is a blog site for ‘older’ boarders, which I suspect, is where the culture ideal is; if the culture is here to stay, why not consider a site which can grow to accommodate expansion (i.e. challenge)?

    http://skateandannoy.com/2007/05/11/vancouver-wa-skatepark-rumor-now-slightly-more-credible-than-bigfoot/

    # Conahan Says:
    June 8th, 2007 at 11:48 am

    Where are the manly men of yesteryear? You can learn to skate on a wall that’s too big for you. You just keep working until you get to the top. Teeney-weenie skatespots are producing a race of minirampers who will never be able to defend freedom from the terrorists. I don’t hold with it.

    # Thor Says:
    June 27th, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    Good news and bad news to report on this project. First the good news… Grindline is expanding the street area and just sent over there additions to the city and the contractor this morning. Here is the bad news I just got in the form of an e-mail. This parks people have asked me to get this out there.

    Hi!

    I’m still working on putting together the meeting I told you all about last time, but today I’ve got something more urgent to report today.

    The new Extreme Sports Park at Pacific Community Park got badly tagged with graffiti last night. Grindline will have to remove the graffiti in addition to the rest of the finishing work they’ll be doing for us next month. Each instance of vandalism costs us extra money we don’t have, and forces us to push the opening date for the park back farther because of the extra work it requires. In addition, Grindline has informed us that painting the concrete actually makes the surface harder to ride on – ruining it for everyone.

    As a result of this disappointing development, I am asking you for your help getting the word out to the skaters and BMXers in the area that vandalizing this park is not acceptable.

    If this new Extreme Sports Park is going to be a positive example in this county, the skateboarding and BMXing community MUST police itself. The county can say “don’t do it” until we’re blue in the face and get no results. Only other skaters, BMXers and their friends can truly influence the behavior of the misguided, disrespectful few. Make sure these people know it’s not OK to ruin your park.

    Please help me get the word out and stop this problem before it gets out of control. Post information on Web pages and blogs. Talk to people about it. Forward this e-mail to your friends.

    The only way to get more of these parks built in Vancouver and Clark County is to show that it’s a good use of public money, and that all those people who think skate parks and extreme sports parks like this only attract crime are wrong. Please don’t prove them right.

    Thank you!

    Jilayne Jordan Parks Communications Specialist Clark County Public Information & Outreach 1300 Franklin Street, 4th Floor PO Box 9810 Vancouver, WA 98666 Phone: 360-397-6118 x. 4949 E-mail: Jilayne.Jordan@clark.wa.gov http://www.clarkparks.org

    # Kilwag Says:
    June 27th, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    Thor beat me to it. After I responded to Jordan that actual skaters and bmxers were not the likely culprit of the vandalism, she replied:

    Just to clarify, I’m not saying that skaters or BMXers are the ones responsible for the graffiti. Odds are, it’s not. Unfortunately, whatever happens in the park reflects back on the skating and BMXing community, regardless of whether or not it’s deserved (lame, I know).

    I do know that a lot of local skaters and BMXers have been visiting the park to watch construction progress. These folks can really help us out just by just keeping an eye on things when they’re in the area, and reporting any vandalism or other criminal behavior by calling 9-1-1.

    # Reesy Says:
    June 27th, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    can somebody give me an address of where the park will be located?

    # Thor Says:
    June 27th, 2007 at 6:18 pm

    NE 15th St & NE 164th Ave Vancouver, WA 98684

    # Dick Cancer Says:
    June 27th, 2007 at 10:20 pm

    You know it’s a shame, but we are just not strict enough in this country. We should really be chopping off the hands of fecal bags who vanddalize someone elses property. I plan on passing legislation. First offense we take your pinky, second offense your thumb, third offense we take your other whole hand with all your digits. Try that one on for size.

    # XFRYARX Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    when did coping change size? no one CC’d me on this . its insane when you cant do something on steel that you have on pool coping cause you roll out or over it every time . vancouver is well built , but the coping is the worst. im glad its built though, maybe all the bikes will stay in the couve.

    # JEssica Belmonte Says:
    May 6th, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    on may 5th there was a person that died there!

    # Jason Long Says:
    September 2nd, 2008 at 10:35 am

    dude i wanna skate this park hella bad =() this kiik

  20. Wow! Dean’s post certainly makes one consider ALL of the aspects of a skate park downtown or in a residential neighborhood. All the more reason it should be tucked a way over by the dog park.

  21. I am truly disappointed in Your comment, Martha , that the skateboard plaza should be “tucked away over by the dog park”.

    What group of kids deserves being “tucked away”? The same ones who have been putting the luminarias out for years?
    For some people, Kids, your light doesn’t shine; they want it “tucked away”.

    The meanness of this community just keeps growing; is it only the kids who play soccer who are worth spending any community resources on?

    Arnie Nelson spoke to this issue continuously at the council; he felt this group of youth also deserved some facilitation from the city … as a matter of fact, he often said he didn’t understand why the city didn’t just build it, considering the money the kids have already raised.

    Some of you are forgetting; the Park Board has voted on this issue, the City Council has voted on this issue, and now the Staff is working with John Slack of Bonestroo to design a Master plan for Ames Park and the skate plaza in it…

    After the years of planning, and working on designs, and producing 40page reference docs for the Park Board, and raising over $30, 000 just on a hopeful idea … Now tell them they should just be happy with being “tucked away over by the dog park”.

    “Tucking away” your kid is NOTHING like tucking in your kid…

  22. Kiffi,

    I really did not mean to imply that we should “hide” our kids sports facility. I do know first hand, as a parent, that many skaters prefer places that are out of the limelight of prying parental/adult eyes.

    I did not mean to offend the kids who’ve worked so hard to achieve this.

    On the other hand, perhaps you could/would address Dean’s concerns directly?

  23. Kiffi, it would help if you could listen to different opinions without feeling the need to pass judgment on their value. Martha is making a good point. You may disagree with it, but it has value.
    As I recall the council had already voted on repairs to City Hall when some people decideed to challenge that decision. I think you supported the right to challenge authority in that case.
    The area near the dog park is severely under-utilized and ugly. Using the bleachers to surround a large skating rink or performance area would be cool. Moving some of the bleachers and creating lots of higher use recreation spaces would be good, and hardly ‘tucked away.’
    Supporters of the skate park still haven’t answered the concern about bring so many skaters through downtown, where skating isn’t allowed.

  24. Kiffi,
    Apparently, dog owners like myself have already been deemed worthy of being “tucked away.” As a dog owner, I take no offense whatsoever.

    Not all activities need to be prominently displayed.

  25. Kiffi,
    Also, by your point of view, aren’t our soccer-playing kids “tucked away” as well? They’re not prominently displayed on the river, either.

  26. Patrick: The land that the dog park was put on was deemed to be an experiment as to how a dog park would work; it may in the end be a temporary location.
    I personally would be more afraid of a dog getting loose and getting involved with the highway traffic , than I would a thinking, experienced ‘street-crosser’ , which most teenagers are.
    The soccer fields had several sites discussed before they were built, and were put where the community favored them and where there was the most land.

  27. The three skate parks that I know have been around for ages — dare I say decades — are the Tony Park Skate Park in Encinitas, perched off the beaten path and overlooking the 5; 3rd Liar, a year round facility in an old warehouse, skaters and BMXers LOVE it — enclosed and generally only adults are parents dropping off or picking up their kids; and the skate park on the border between St. Louis Park and Hopkins, beneath an underpass, by the railroad tracks and the bonus there is they use the old depot as a coffee house run by the kids who skate/bike the park. None of these are front and center in any downtown. The kids really seem to love these three locations. I know my son and his friends did.

  28. Kiffi,
    So are you saying that the current dog park location is a bad one, which shames dogs and their owners?

    Seems fine to me.

  29. Josh Wood had a guest column in last weekend’s Nfld News: Ames Park meeting reinvigorates boarders.

    For the last three years, the building of a skate plaza has been an idea that has been worn thin like a tattered flag fading into the distance. The youth involved (including yours truly) have exhausted every measure of pushing the process along. Hope and excitement have slowly but surely been drained from the local skaters. That is, until the most recent Park Board meeting, which took place on Tuesday and featured a discussion on the Ames Park Master Plan. At the meeting, there was a sense of accomplishment. Finally, we were taking a major step forward, after what felt like a long stalemate in the project.

  30. Patrick: Only a presumptive attitude could possibly extrapolate what you said (#31)…. from what I said( #28 and previous).
    Sorry you’re feeling so contentious with me; even to the point of being illogical, IMO.

  31. Nfld News: Skatepark plans are put on hold
    By: SUZANNE ROOK, Senior Reporter

    “the youth… raised more than $30,000 to help get the park built…

    Adding to the council’s fears was a cost estimate for the project of anywhere from $479,000 to $669,000 depending on the skatepark’s siting and park amenities. Those figures are more than double original projections of $235,000.

    http://northfieldnews.com/news.php?viewStory=47565

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