Community

BARC skatepark ends supervised sessions, opens for free skating

Vashon’s skateboarders and inline skaters will be able to skate for free starting next month, when Vashon’s indoor skatepark switches from its pay-to-skate model to daily, unsupervised skating at no charge.

The Burton Adventure Recreation Center (BARC), owned by the Vashon Park District and supported by the BARC Stewardship Council, has offered only supervised skate sessions for the past several years. Now, because of a marked decrease in the number of skaters and the resulting decreased revenue, the park will adopt the model most outdoor skateparks use: free skates from morning until dusk every day. For added security, members of the stewardship council will install security cameras that will allow parents to check on their kids online.

“Right now we just want to keep the park open for these kids,” said Allison Reid, a member of the stewardship council.

Beginning Nov. 1, the indoor skatepark will be open from 9 a.m. until dusk every day, Reid said.

Currently, she noted, park hours are just Wednesday through Sunday with limited hours during those days. With this change, the skatepark will be open daily like any other Vashon park.

“(Skating) will be just like using the swings at Ober Park,” she said.

Still, Reid said, with no supervisor present, the council plans to install several video surveillance cameras to stream a live video feed of the indoor park activities. Parents will be able to drop their kids off and check on them through the Vashon Park District’s website. Council members also hope the cameras will curtail vandalism and other inappropriate activity at the park, she said.

She noted that rules of the park will be posted and that skaters under 18 must wear a helmet. Like at other parks, there will be no phone once the change takes place.

Some involved say they believe the change is a good one for the skate park, while others voice concern.

Elaine Ott, general manager of the Vashon Park District, has been working with the stewardship council for several months. She recently said she is supportive of the plan, which will allow the park to remain open.

“I am fully aware of the fun and importance of a well built skatepark,” she said. “I do have a particular passion for the success of the skatepark.”

Jenni Wilke, a member of the stewardship council, also spoke in favor of the plan, which the council proposed to the park district over the summer.

“I think it’s a really good move,” she said.

As the council members did informal research, Wilke said, they found that teens frequently quit going to BARC in favor of free places to skate and that adults also expressed interest in skating, though the limited hours frequently did not work for them. With this new plan in place, she said she hopes BARC will draw more users.

Reid,  however, said she is concerned about young skaters, and knows that some parents will not drop their kids off without supervision.

“It’s wait and see and hope that people will embrace it,” she said.

In addition to the November changes, Reid said the BARC Stewardship Council and the park district hope to build a concrete bowl there, hopefully next summer.

The park district was awarded a $75,000 King County Youth Sports Facilities Grant in 2010 to help fund an ambitious project to build an outdoor skatepark at BARC.

Those plans were later scaled back, Wilke said, in part because the project was too expensive, and some of the components did not fit the needs of the park users, she noted. A bowl, on the other hand, does just that.

“That’s what skaters want, and that’s what we don’t have,” she said.

At the park district, Ott noted that the project was “tabled by default” because of staff turnover at the district and tight cash flow. Now, she said, she is optimistic the bowl will be built next summer, but two conditions need to be met first.

First, she said, King County must award a second grant extension, after awarding one last year that expires Dec. 31. The county is amenable to considering it, she said, and she and the stewardship council members are compiling the needed information.

Secondly, building the bowl would require the district to front the $75,000 to the construction company and then be reimbursed by the county. This will be a cash-flow issue for the district, Ott said, noting that the district would need to draw from its line of credit, which would require board approval.

BARC steward Reid said she believes the entire Burton park is a diamond in the rough, with a BMX track, disc golf and a sand volleyball court she saw used every day last summer. Over time, she said, many BARC supporters would like to see the park reach its full potential.

“The point is to enhance it beyond a skatepark,” she said. “Eventually, we want people on the board committed to the whole park enhancement and improvement.”

This week, some help for the park will come from nearly 40 Harbor School students, who will head there for a service learning project, which Reid coordinated.

James Cardo, the head of the Harbor School, said the group will work on a variety of maintenance tasks, from dismantling some things inside in preparation for the coming operational changes to clearing trails and cutting out blackberries and Scotch broom.

Reid said she is pleased to have them.

“It needs that kind of love and care,” she said. “It’s a beautiful park.”

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