Straw poll: Locate skate plaza in Ames Park or not?

 Northfield City Council with the Parks and Rec Advisory Board The Northfield City Council has agreed to an up or down vote on the Parks and Rec Advisory Board’s (PRAB) unanimous recommendation to locate the skate plaza in Ames Park. They’ll likely vote next Monday.

Before you take the straw poll, 1) see the 60+ comments attached to this Feb. blog post; 2) see pages 7-8 of the Monday’s Council agenda packet PDF; 3) see the meeting page for a list of 8 related PDF attachments.  According to the PRAB, these are the opportunites/benefits and constraints/limitations for locating the skate plaza in Ames Park:



  • Central location near downtown area
  • Social atmosphere of downtown area, with added appeal of local and outside visitors being in the area as casual observers
  • Adequate space to accommodate need
  • Proximity to other social activities
  • Positive image for City
  • Noise impact not an issue
  • Visibility –adds to safety
  • More direct access
  • Ames easier to fix safety issues
  • More urban feeling, hard surfaces better fit with urban design
  • Other facilities more relative to youth activities
  • Visibility from Water Street Project
  • Greater visibility for surveillance
  • Social atmosphere
  • Proximity to Police Station
  • Part of DJJD celebration
  • Access to site through downtown area and across river more congested
  • Lack of support facilities, such as parking, restrooms, etc
  • Uncertain visual impact of facility as a gateway feature into downtown area
  • Impact of facility use patterns on surrounding downtown businesses serving a diverse cross-section of clientele (ie., noise, traffic, security concerns, etc)
  • Loss of open space for other uses, such as annual events
  • Require full development

Feel free to ask questions and comment, even if you don’t take the poll. I’m especially interested in your thinking/explanation of why you voted as you did.

[poll id=”36″]


  1. Gabriel Rholl said:


    I had no idea that with my “Yes” vote I’d be so far in the minority. It makes me wonder how much of the debate is “Where do we put the skatepark?” so much as “Do we even want one at all?”

    My answer is “Ames” to the first question and “Yes” to the second. Yes to the whole idea of a skatepark because these kids need a public space of their own to be able to express themselves and be seen. That explains my first answer as well– it’s absolutely critical to note that this has everything to do with empowering youth to express themselves in a very public sphere, not tucked away in some corner like we’re ashamed of them (read: Memorial or Riverside park). Why do you think we need a downtown skateboard ordinance in the first place? I think the answer is obvious: These youth were using the downtown area as a skatepark to be seen at the expense of the safety of others.

    This plan provides that necessary social atmosphere, and it offers the safety of a place designed for them, but usable by all.

    April 29, 2009
  2. kiffi summa said:

    Gabriel : Don’t necessarily be discouraged by the poll numbers; there are MANY supporters of the kids, the Skateboard Coalition , and the Park Board’s carefully thought out decision about the most appropriate site.
    I don’t know if Griff has been able to ‘secure’ this poll from the manipulation to which the NFNews poll is subject.

    What about it, Griff? How secure is this poll from manipulation?

    After all, there are some very determined efforts to see this project just go away… When the Park Board Chair reports to the council that a councilor has been spreading rumors( and he knows it from his discussions with the MOM execs ) about Malt O Meal’s attitude about the skate plaza, we know there is serious crap going on.

    April 29, 2009
  3. Gabriel Rholl said:


    It’s exactly the fact that LoGroNo does try to secure its polls that makes me worried. If you have more-or-less secure polls still returning slanted results, it makes me curious. Also, I realize that this is a bit of a generalization, but bear with me– if the polls were manipulatable, wouldn’t it be the “rabblerouser youth” that would try to abuse it for their own purposes?

    I totally agree with you that you should take NN polls with a grain of salt. I have to confess; one of the things my roommate and I did last October was manipulate the polls from his conservative hometown newspaper and skew the results to say that Biden won the vice-presidential debate (they were leaning heavily towards Palin– but perhaps somebody else was doing the exact same thing we were for the other side).

    What makes me more concerned is that these results are not unprecedented. If you check Griff’s link to the previous post on this issue, the poll majority stated that we “Don’t spend tax dollars at all on a skate plaza (38.0%, 23 Votes)”.

    It does confuse me that given the level of support I’ve seen for them, that this keeps turning up. For me, it’s a really basic argument: these kids are going to skate somewhere, and we might as well give them a place to. And, it’s important that we help out the very kids that have raised funds for it, not their successors.

    April 29, 2009
  4. Jane McWilliams said:

    After listening to the discussions of this issue by the City Council and the Park and Recreation Board during the past year, I’ve come to think that the Council should approve the Ames Park site. Originally, I thought Memorial Park a better location, but for various reasons, that one has been excluded. Ames Park is a good alternative.

    There are some serious challenges to developing Ames Park and building the skate board plaza, not the least of which is the cost. Other park improvements have been done in phases, for example, Memorial and Way Parks.I hope the Ames Park can be developed in phases – with access problems solved and the plaza construction being in the first phase. Fully developed, I think Ames Park can be a dramatic, interesting and attractive gateway to downtown.

    April 29, 2009
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    Kiffi, our straw poll tool prevents repeat voting from the same IP address, so it’s pretty good. Clearing your browser’s cookie or switching to a different browser on the same PC or even a different computer in the same location generally won’t work. For example, if just one person votes from the PC at GBM, no one else can vote from there. We have 4 PCs at my house and if I vote from one of them, I can’t vote from any others.

    I just tested the Northfield News straw poll and it doesn’t have this feature so it’s quite easy to vote multiple times there.

    The only non-techie way to manipulate our poll is get lots of people in other locations to vote as you wish them to.

    But of course, a clever techie could write a script of some kind to beat the program but since there’s nothing really at stake, no one is likely to bother.

    April 29, 2009
  6. Patrick Enders said:

    FWIW, I was a skateboarder for a while back in the stone ages.

    I wasn’t ‘looking to be seen,’ or even looking to be empowered. I just wanted some nice uneven pavement to skate on, where I wouldn’t be kicked out.

    April 30, 2009
  7. nick sinclair said:

    I was once a skater too. Too old now, bad knees, bla, bla. I am 100% behind a park. I just don’t think Ames is a good location. It would be the first thing you see when coming here… not too pretty. How about where those truckers park? does that place have a name?

    April 30, 2009
  8. Patrick Enders said:

    It’s Babcock Park, according to the city web site:

    I spend a lot of time there, and mostly I think of it as “the dog park behind the muddy truck parking lot.” It’s a potentially great but woefully underutilized location, near to the river and downtown, and soon to have easy access through the slowly-growing trail system and recently-installed bridge.

    I think it’d be a great place for a skate park.

    April 30, 2009
  9. Griff Wigley said:

    Two FYI’s:

    • I neglected to turn off comments on our podcast blog post on the skatepark in my attempt to steer the conversation to existing threads. Since the horse is out of the barn now, keep tabs in all THREE places.

    • Apparently, there will NOT be a Council vote on the issue at next Monday’s May 4 Council mtg, as it’s not on the Agenda.

    April 30, 2009
  10. Matt Bailey said:

    Another former skater here who thinks that Ames is just not a good location: way too much car traffic. I am otherwise 100% behind the building of a skatepark in Northfield and have contributed money to the Skatepark Coalition to try to make it happen.

    May 2, 2009
  11. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    I would caution against Ames Park. It could easily become just an extension of the skateboard activity that goes on now on Water Street by the Key and increase the safety hazard in the whole area.

    One Council person has told me that Malt-O-Meal will put up a barrier so kids can’t flow through their parking lot to get to the site, but I’m wondering how that will work out.

    I stopped in the Key yesterday to suggest to those in charge that they might want to remind skateboarders (such as those leaning in their doorway) that avoiding violations for the next several days before a Council vote might be worthwhile. I was told the Key has no position or interest in whether or not a skateboard park comes to be. Is that the case?

    May 4, 2009
  12. kiffi summa said:

    What councilor made that statement to you, Stephanie?

    May 6, 2009
  13. Patrick Enders said:

    Betsey’s current blog includes the following:

    In February, the Council directed staff to review these concerns:
    * Access through Malt-O-Meal property: staff report says: M-O-M will work to prevent this by building a fence. Fair enough, they’ve got liability issues and apparently they are also concerned with food contamination.

    Hope that helps.

    May 6, 2009
  14. kiffi summa said:

    Fully aware of what you point out to me, Patrick…

    What concerns me is the councilor who has been manipulating information on the skateboard park issue; I do not like persons who seek to inflate their self image by manipulating facts, acting as if they have ‘privileged’ information, and try to gain a political ‘win’ for their POV by misrepresenting what others have said, causing both anger and embarrassment to the involved parties.

    So, Stephanie, could you elaborate a bit more about your discussion with the “councilor”?

    May 6, 2009
  15. Rob Hardy said:

    Ah, a place where I can get around the turned-off comments on the latest skatepark post!

    Erica says that there’s currently no money for the skatepark because the park board has made Memorial Park its priority for funding, but at the same time the same park board has removed Memorial Park from consideration for the skatepark. What’s the deal? Memorial Park already has the public pool. Can’t we move on to the skatepark now, or kill two birds with one stone and put the skatepark in Memorial?

    Pouring more money into Memorial Park for us east side dog-walking elites vs. providing a unique and long-sought-after recreational opportunity for the youth of Northfield. Seems like an obvious choice to me.

    June 1, 2009
  16. Tracy Davis said:

    I’m liking the new acronym (pronounced “Ez-dwee”). Rob, we may now have the first hyphenated neighborhood category: The ESDWE-NIMBYs.

    June 1, 2009
  17. Griff Wigley said:

    No big surprise tonight: the Council rejected Ames 5-1 as the site for the skate plaza; Buckheit was the only one to support it.

    But there was a stunning development in the post-vote discussion. Film at 10!

    June 1, 2009
  18. Patrick Enders said:

    To summarize:
    The current City Council continues on its unprecedented string of good decisions.


    June 1, 2009

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