Podcast: the Triumvirate on locating the skate plaza in Ames Park

The Locally Grown TriumvirateIt was just us three citizens yesterday, pretending to be members of the Northfield City Council and discussing how and why we’d vote on the Parks and Rec Advisory Board’s (PRAB) recommendation to locate the skatepark in Ames Park.

Click play to listen. 30 minutes. You can also download the MP3 or subscribe to the podcast feed, or subscribe directly with iTunes.

Our radio show/podcast, Locally Grown, usually airs Wednesdays at 5:30 PM and Sundays at 10 AM on KYMN 1080 AM.


  1. kiffi summa said:

    Thanks, Ross, for being the voice of reason on the Downtown view regarding the skateboard plaza location.
    I am really disappointed in the NDDC Board POV as reported by you; Also the downtown businesses.
    As the first citizen to be appointed to the original NDDC board ( ’99 ) a constant committee member of the NDDC (Riverwalk, Action Squad, ER Team ) and a downtown building owner, I think the Ames Park location is EXACTLY the effective location to get the kids off Division Street, for precisely the reasons you said: There’s the Park, go over there !

    I have supported this project from the beginning, and given that the neighborhood would not allow the kid’s first choice, Memorial Field, I think Ames is a great second choice… and the SK/Coalition’s design is beautiful. It’s virtually a concrete sculpture park on its own. Re: the “Gateway” location ? What could be better than telling the ‘world’, this town cares about its kids?

    I could, and have, virtually gone on about this for thousands of words. I think the council process has been ‘revisionist history’. I think the council’s process has ‘dissed’ the Park Boards many hours of deliberation over at least a year and a half. I think the council did not do their own homework on informing themselves of the PRAB’s process. And I think the councilor who spread untrue rumors about Malt-o-Meals opinion should be reprimanded.

    April 30, 2009
  2. Patrick Enders said:

    On the Swine Flu / H1N1 thing: I believe that – despite its lack of poetic appeal – H1N1 Influenza is the more appropriate name for this virus.

    Avian flu is influenza in birds. Swine flu is influenza in pigs. This strain of influenza is now a human virus, and its origin is therefore irrelevant.

    The 1918 flu pandemic was also an H1N1 strain of flu, and it was most likely of avian and/or swine origin. Mercifully, this new strain does not appear to be nearly as deadly thus far. Furthermore, it seems to be somewhat responsive to existing antiviral therapies. However, as it spreads, it has the potential to evolve. It therefore requires very close surveillance, and treatment where appropriate.

    April 30, 2009
  3. kiffi summa said:

    Hey 2&3 ! you ‘piggies’ need to move over to that H1N1 thread; you do spread quickly!

    April 30, 2009
  4. Jerry Bilek said:

    Ross, your take on the skate park seems to be dead on. nobody wants it near them. the skate park I saw in London attracted tourists like bears to honey. it was pretty cool. maybe my back yard is the best place in town.

    April 30, 2009
  5. Patrick Enders said:

    When we finally buy a house, it’ll be somewhere near Memorial Park – and I think Memorial Park would also be a fantastic location for a skate park.

    As far as location goes, I think that the structure pictured in the mockups would look great nestled in a wooded, open park. However, its modern look would be quite out of place at the entrance to our 19th century downtown, and in that location, it would be a bit of an eyesore.

    The other issue is the timing / budget issue. When the city is facing cuts in services, drops in revenue, and may even be facing cuts in reimbursements to its city-owned hospital (see this week’s Nfld News), it seems foolish to be spending any money on highly discretionary, optional projects that can easily be deferred.

    April 30, 2009
  6. Ross Currier said:

    Hey Patrick –

    I think you’ve offered your opinions on three issues:

    1) Should the Council accept the Board’s recommendation for the skatepark location?

    2) Should Northfield spend money on a skatepark at this particular point in our economic history?

    3) What is your feeling about the appropriateness of the proposed design for various possible locations?

    On yesterday’s show, Griff, Tracy and I were trying to clarify or distinguish the various issues raised in the broader skatepark discussion.

    Thanks much.

    April 30, 2009
  7. kiffi summa said:

    Patrick: I agree that the kids’ first choice, Memorial park, would have been great, but alas, the ‘neighborhood’ prevailed…

    But as far as the financing and any relationship to the hospital finances, I think you are possibly not understanding that although the city “owns’ the hospital, their finances are not intertwined at all (Except for bonding for capital improvements?)
    The original set-up between the city and the hospital wisely separated the financials of the two, mostly I believe so that a city council in need of funds could not usurp any of the hospital monies… so throwing consideration of possible hospital cuts into the ‘mess’ might be a bit of a red herring.

    The important parts of the financing is in what the kids have raised, how much more the council will say they (Kids) have to raise, and how the PRAB wishes to spend their funds (which are not being replenished by the council which is directing that 150k a year to the general fund) and then how that whole balancing act relates to the amount of money the council had budgeted as a placeholder.

    Too bad you weren’t already in the neighborhood so you could have advocated for your first choice, Memorial Park.

    April 30, 2009
  8. Mary Rossing said:

    Just curious. IF you could turn back the clock, would you have advocated for the PRAB to recommend Old Memorial Park as the best site? Your comment “but alas, the ‘neighborhood’ prevailed…” is very intriguing.

    April 30, 2009
  9. Patrick Enders said:

    Two small points:
    – I’m not saying that the Hospital budget and the Parks budget are directly related. I’m just saying that public money is very tight, and cuts of undetermined size and impact are still going to be coming down from the state. The Hospital money is just one example of such. In such uncertain times, local budgeting should be done as tightly as possible.
    – I don’t know whether or not Memorial is the best site or not. I’m still discovering the ins and out of Northfield’s parks and trails. Still, Memorial does seem to be an excellent, logical place to put it. There’s clearly plenty of room on the site that isn’t being put to any particular use. It’s a nice area, and the sidewalks and streets around it are pretty darned safe. Finally, the pool and the skate park seem like a great ‘twofer’ destination. Go skate for a while, work up a sweat, and cool off in the pool.

    I would’ve loved to have such an arrangement when I was a skating kid.

    April 30, 2009
  10. Patrick Enders said:

    Plus, just thinking out loud here…
    The pool needs supervision whenever it is open. That could allow for at least a little bit of indirect supervision for any issues that might come up at the park.

    Finally, if we can agree on a site for a skate park, why not do the work in stages? Use the donations that are available now to get some simple stuff in place (cement is pretty cheap after all), and soup it up later when the state budget is less of a disaster.

    April 30, 2009
  11. Griff Wigley said:

    Two FYI’s:

    • I neglected to turn off comments here in my attempt to steer the conversation to a previous blog post. Since the horse is out of the barn, carry on!

    • 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
  12. kiffi summa said:

    Mayor Mary: Yes, although the Ames Park Location is an equally good choice as far as I’m concerned for at least three major reasons:
    1. Economic driver for downtown (not going to explain that all for the 49th time), and
    2. Statement to wider populace about NF being supportive of its Youth population, and
    3. Fabulous flexible use of a flood plain which does not lend itself to all kinds of construction,
    BUT, BUT, and BUT I would have , and did, fully support the Old Memorial Field location that was the first choice of the kids, because the first choice of the kids is where it will be most successful.
    HOWEVER, HOEVER, and HOWEVER … I fully support the dedication and consideration with which the PRAB fully worked through this process in the last year and a half.

    May 1, 2009
  13. kiffi summa said:

    Patrick: good points all …

    May 1, 2009
  14. […] have to find out when it wil return.   The issue is still being discussed over on Locally Grown here and here; I’ve opined here and […]

    May 2, 2009
  15. Arlen Malecha said:

    Patrick –

    I too think the Old Memorial Park would be a great spot for the skate park. It has wide open spaces that could accommodate the skate park, the pool is right there, perhaps an arrangement could be struck with the pool regarding access to the concessions stand (vending machines) and rest rooms.

    I know the PRAB has worked hard on this issue and listened to the neighbors in area around Old Memorial Park and I am in no way trying to diminish their work nor the feelings of the neighbors.

    But I have felt all along that this was the best location for the skate park.

    May 4, 2009
  16. Patrick Enders said:

    Do we know whether or not the Ames Park proposal is going to be voted on tonight?

    I’ve heard conflicting stories.

    May 4, 2009
  17. Patrick Enders said:

    Answering my own question, from Betsey Buckheit’s blog, linked above:

    “This issue is not on this week’s agenda for the Council…”

    May 4, 2009
  18. Griff Wigley said:

    Looks like the skate park decision has been bumped back. Mayor Rossing distributed this last night:

    Update on Skateboard Plaza 5/11/09

    I met with the chairperson, Rick Vanasek and Nathan Knutson of the Parks and Rec. Advisory Board last Thursday morning. We discussed how we might best move ahead with a decision on the skate plaza. They requested that the council postpone their vote on a site so that the PRAB has time to revisit their own priorities and discuss how this particular project relates to the other projects on their list. They will be discussing priorities at their meeting on Tuesday, May 12th and then will hope to move into a discussion about finances at their June meeting. They ask that we hold off on a site vote at this time so that they can stay focused on these fundamental discussions.

    We all noted that in the Parks, Open Space and Trail System Plan that there were other projects that ranked ahead of a skate plaza, and that this needed to be revisited–to either reaffirm or amend.

    I shared with them that the 2009 council goals on the skate plaze were three fold:

    1) Reach a consensus on site, design, and affordability issues.

    2) Establish a funding strategy

    3) Establish a location and need for temporary plaza

    At a later date it will be important for the PRAB and the council to come to the table together with a clear public statement about priority and then establish a funding strategy. Because of current financial constraints this unity will be particularly important as we work to make the best decisions on behalf of the entire community with limited resources.

    Mayor Mary Rossing

    May 12, 2009
  19. kiffi summa said:

    I just got home from the Park Board Meeting; I’m going to wait to comment in any detail on this…

    But what is clear is this: The council will vote the skatepark down if it comes to them for a vote; that’s been clear for a while.

    The Mayor does not want the council to be the ones who “kill” it; she’d prefer someone else be ‘blamed’. She emphasized the need to be “honest with the public” about what we’re doing!

    The appointment of David Hvistendahl to the Park Board at this time was a very, very political move… This might be how you structure committees of private entities to get your way; this is not good public process with a citizen advisory board that has consistently and repeatedly made the same decision.

    The whole Ames Park site discussion began again, and became a heated argument.

    Disgusting, disappointing, and disenfranchising.

    May 12, 2009
  20. kiffi summa said:

    For those who would like some real numbers, rather than the erroneous ones in today’s NFNews article which says: “Costs for a skatepark in Ames are high; anywhere from $628,000 to $803,000, depending on size of the plaza , amenities, and location in the park.”… Read on…

    Actually those numbers used in the article are for the ENTIRE development of the Ames Park Master Plan, not the skatepark, per se.

    The skateboard plaza number is in the $240,000 dollar range, PRAB chair Vanasek has negotiated some reductions in that cost, the kids have raised $30-40K, and IF they ever got a site they could go on to some more major fundraising, contractor in-kind donations, etc. It was always expected that the entire plan would have to be done in phases.

    But I really fear this project is dead. The votes are not there for the council to pass the approval of the PRAB’s recommendation, although repeatedly confirmed as the ideal spot.

    When Mr. Hvistendahl, newly appointed to the board by Mayor Rossing, raised the issue of the supposed Malt-O-Meal objections (remember the rumor being spread by a councilor? ) PRAB Board chair quickly defused that by explaining how he and another Board member, Eric Hong had met with Malt-O-Meal, who were very supportive,and had no objections or requests, except that the plaza be located at the south end of the field.

    In a town that has figuratively ‘wrung its hands’ over the problems of youth, there is no place that can be found for these kids, who practice this urban sport.

    May 13, 2009
  21. Griff Wigley said:

    Today’s Nfld News editorial: Deciding where to put a skatepark is free.

    That’s why it’s surprising that the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board asked to postpone the siting decision, and that the mayor agreed to the request. Why, we wonder, has a tight budget impacted the council’s ability to choose a location?

    May 16, 2009
  22. Griff Wigley said:

    I haven’t talked to Mayor Rossing or anyone else on the Council about this lately, but I think the delay could be seen as a good thing. The Council and the PRAB have begun talking more, the PRAB is rethinking (budget concerns), the public sentiment that seems to be leaning against the Ames Park location is being taken into consideration, etc.

    On hot issue like this, I think the public is better served for the PRAB and the Council to try to come to an agreement before votes are taken.

    As for David Hvistendahl’s appointment to the PRAB, I think it’s fine, even though he’s been an outspoken opponent to the Ames location. I think he’s the only downtown property and business owner on the PRAB. And he’s only one vote.

    May 16, 2009
  23. Patrick Enders said:


    The Council and the PRAB have begun talking more, the PRAB is rethinking (budget concerns), the public sentiment that seems to be leaning against the Ames Park location is being taken into consideration, etc.

    On hot issue like this, I think the public is better served for the PRAB and the Council to try to come to an agreement before votes are taken.

    Amen. The Councilors continue to demonstrate the good judgment that we elected them for.

    May 16, 2009
  24. kiffi summa said:

    The council’s decision is political; The PRAB’s decision is about picking the best site, as evaluated by their particular expertise.

    The council may choose to make a ‘political’ decision, that may, or may not , exemplify a political position now, or in the future. Or they may choose to VALUE the decision made by their citizen advisory board.

    Park siteings should not be done on political considerations; which may not be constant over the years.

    And as far as the opinion of the “downtown”, I for one approve the Ames Park site, as do many other downtowners. I believe the council is using the ‘information’ they prefer to use as it suits their own perspective.

    Putting off the vote is a strategic move on the PRAB’s part; The councilors who are against the Ames Park site would just as soon the vote be taken, and the site “put down’.

    In my opinion, and from the statements that have been made, I believe the Mayor, wisely, does not want to be seen as part of the vote that kills the skateboard park, although she clearly opposed the site even before she was elected.

    The council would prefer the onus of that decision be put on the PRAB, not on the council. Hence, all this maneuvering.

    May 16, 2009
  25. Griff Wigley said:

    At last night’s work session, the Councilors decided to NOT wait for the PRAB and instead, will vote on Ames on June 1. See the article in today’s Northfield News.

    The rationale?

    “It looks like we were stalling if we
    don’t vote,” Councilor Betsey Buckheit
    said Tuesday. “I do think the council
    needs to check that off so we can move

    Huh? I thought the rationale to collaborate with the PRAB was a good one. Who has accused the council of stalling on this issue?

    This wasn’t even on the agenda for the work session.


    May 19, 2009
  26. Patrick Enders said:

    Maybe they took the criticisms on this page to heart, and decided to move forward on this issue as a result.

    May 19, 2009
  27. Jon Denison asked to put the skate park on the worksession agenda in light of the PRAB’s request (or rather the request by the PRAB leadership but not the entire board) to reconsider park priorities and budget.

    I strongly favor voting on the Ames Park location now rather than later for at least these reasons:

    • The Park Board made a (second)
      unanimous recommendation to the
      Council to locate the skate park in
      Ames Park. The next step in this
      process is for Council to act on
      this recommendation.

      Council action on the recommendation
      in no way impedes the PRAB from
      continuing their discussion about

      Council action would clarify PRAB’s
      priorities. If PRAB knew that Ames
      Park was OR was not to be the
      location for the park. If the
      Council says Yes to Ames, then an
      appropriate process/timing for
      developing the park at Ames could be
      part of the priorities discussion.
      If the Council votes No Ames, then
      the PRAB can consider the best way
      to proceed to locate a skatepark and
      where that falls in their park
      development priorities.

    I do not know if The Public believes Council is stalling, but it feels to me like postponing Council action is based more on fear – although I’m not sure whether it is fear of failure or fear of success.

    May 19, 2009
  28. Patrick Enders said:

    Thanks for your response, as well as your forthrightness about your position. Personally, I strongly feel that Ames is a poor choice, while much better ones exist at both Memorial and Babcock Parks. Still, we might as well get down to the business at hand, and see which position will prevail.

    I’d write to my councilperson about this, but well, you don’t seem to have much wiggle room in your position for me to persuade you. 🙂 Which reminds me… I need to drop a line to Kris Vohs and Rhonda Pownell.

    May 19, 2009
  29. Patrick Enders said:

    I just realized that I misread your statement, and – at least here – you are only endorsing voting “on”, not necessarily voting “for” Ames Park.

    In that case…
    Did I mention that having a skate park in Memorial Park, with easy access to the pool facilities, and possibly limited supervision by pool staff, would be a tremendous asset to our east side neighborhood?

    May 19, 2009
  30. Griff Wigley said:

    Betsey, this seems like an odd reversal to me.

    There clearly was a signficant conflict/bad blood between the PRAB and the Council just a month or so ago, culminating in the PRAB appearance at a Council Work Session and the subsequent plan for a up-or-down vote.

    Then the Mayor and the PRAB leadership met, culminating in a PRAB request to postpone a Council vote, seemingly laying the groundwork for a more collaborative effort on this contentious issue.

    Now the Council is planning to ignore the PRAB’s request, seemingly putting things back to conflict-mode between the two bodies.

    Isn’t there a human relations issue here that’s important to address?

    May 20, 2009
  31. Griff Wigley said:

    Patrick, were you being facetious?

    Did I mention that having a skate park
    in Memorial Park, with easy access to
    the pool facilities, and possibly
    limited supervision by pool staff,
    would be a tremendous asset to our
    east side neighborhood?

    May 20, 2009
  32. Patrick Enders said:

    I am being entirely sincere, just as I was, above, in posts 4.1, 6.1, and 6.2.

    I think Memorial Park would be a great place for the skatepark. I say that as someone who lives on the east side, and who plans to permanently settle in a house even closer to Memorial Park than the one in which we currently reside.

    May 20, 2009
  33. Patrick Enders said:

    …I might also add that if we manage to adopt an infant as our first child this year, he or she might come of age just in time to be one of the first users of the new Northfield Skate Park.

    May 20, 2009
  34. Griff, I think following through on the PRAB’s recommendation is an affirmation of their process. They provided a thoughtful and detailed recommendation; the Council needs to act on it. Further, I applaud the PRAB’s efforts to prioritize their park development efforts.

    I believe that a vote on Ames Park – whatever the outcome – will clear the way for real progress on developing a skate park. The last Council accepted Ames Park as a location with reservations about access, safety, etc. This Council sent it back to the PRAB twice. Now Council must do its job and act on that recommendation and give the PRAB direction on how to proceed.

    May 20, 2009
  35. Griff Wigley said:

    Patrick, I only asked because:

    • the PRAB studied Memorial at length last year and reportedly heard considerable neighborhood opposition to locating the skate park there… tho that wasn’t their only reason for not recommending it.
    • I’ve been harping lately that the PRAB and other boards and commissions need a way to better communicate their deliberations and decisions to the public.

    So your comments were, um, timely! 

    May 20, 2009
  36. Griff Wigley said:

    Betsey, the PRAB changed their mind and asked you to not vote. So how can the Council’s decision to ignore it be an affirmation? It seems to be either a deliberate stick-in-the-eye or maybe there’s some other issue going on here that we’re not privy to.

    May 20, 2009
  37. john george said:

    Patrick- I admire your optimism.

    May 20, 2009
  38. David Ludescher said:

    Griff: I think that it would be worthwhile for the Council to vote down Ames Park now, if that is their intent. There is no sense in having the Park Board spend more time advocating for its position if the Council does not intend to accept their recommendation.

    I would also suggest that this issue isn’t so much about bad blood or poor communication. The problem stems more from an unelected commission trying to control the process. It is similar to the Planning Commission voting down the annexation because some individuals had a personal distaste for the project.

    Boards and commissions need to be responsive to the City Council’s agenda rather than their own personal wishes. The same thing happened with Target. Twice, the City Council told the Planning Commission to tell us the best way to zone for Target. Twice they refused. So, the Council had to do the Planning Commission’s job. Before we could finish, the referendum of the citizens passed.

    It would seem that the only good reason to put the skateboard park in Ames Park is so that youth can be seen. Let the youth use any park thatis safe – give them a three year lease – make it open to the public – and let them spend their own money. If it works, then we can look at a possible investment of City money. Until then, let’s save the $600,000.

    May 20, 2009
  39. As I understand it Griff, two members of the Park Board approached the Mayor about waiting. Mayor Rossing presented Council with a memo about waiting but there was no discussion of the matter at that time. So, there was not any official PRAB request to the Council nor official acceptance by the Council. On Monday night, Council agreed to put it to a vote and I believe this is both procedurally proper and a political prerequisite to straightforward further action.

    Looking ahead: after the June 1 vote, Council needs to follow through on its responsibility to provide clear direction to PRAB about next steps in this matter.

    If this is perceived as being unkind to the PRAB, that’s not my intention nor goal. Transparency, certainty and fairness have been behind my position that we need to follow through on the process that was begun several years ago.

    May 20, 2009
  40. Patrick Enders said:

    I agree with David L: this is a decision that needs to be made by our elected representatives, rather than by the volunteer PRAB.

    Betsey, thank you for attention to this question, as well as your openness on the process.

    May 20, 2009
  41. kiffi summa said:

    Although I think the vote will surely go ‘down’ on the Ames Park location … and I will personally find that very disturbing… Councilor Buckheit is absolutely correct on the policy issue.
    1. PRAB picked the what was in their mind the best location, and sent that recommendation to the Council
    2. Council didn’t like the site (Remember, the three returning councilors had previously voted against it, and Mayor Rossing had not favored Ames in her campaigning) and sent it back to the PRAB, asking them to ‘prove’ their selection with a list of pros and cons.
    3. PRAB confirms their recommendation, and returns it to Council ; Council still not ‘happy’.
    4. PRAB Chair designs a strategy designed to eliminate council coming back with financial objections, and asks them to hold off on vote, but unfortunately it ‘backfired’ because it really should have been negotiated between both full
    bodies to avoid further complication.
    5. Councilor Denison asks for a discussion at the work session last Monday, in which C. Buckheit prevails on the policy issue, and as I said , she is correct on the policy.
    6. The Council owes a vote to PRAB, and to the kids; the vote is on June 1.

    It is my personal opinion that the council was eager to NOT have the project go down by their vote. Is it TOO hopeful to think it is possible that they will be so wary of the impact of a negative decision that some will change their opinion and it will pass?

    By the way, these inflated numbers that everyone tosses around are a real problem. There was a placeholder in the budget for I think 235K, just the cost of the skate plaza, but everyone keeps using the newspaper’s big numbers (600-800K) which is the COMPLETE MASTER PLAN for Ames Park.

    The PRAB Chair has negotiated the price down with the builder, the Finance Director says the safety improvements do NOT come from the park budget, IF the kids had a site they could raise more $$$ … The money for a phased project is there, the PRAB Chair says.


    May 20, 2009
  42. Tracy Davis said:

    Hey, there’s a skate park in Afghanistan (I’m not making this up):


    Once again, Northfield lags behind some of the most underdeveloped countries in the world. I’ll bet they even have fiber infrastructure in Kabul by now.

    May 27, 2009
  43. john george said:

    Tracy- I think most of the fiber in Kabul is in the citizens’ diet.

    May 28, 2009

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