New stewards bring fresh energy to Vashon's skatepark

Thanks in part to an infusion of volunteer support, the Burton Adventure Recreation Center (BARC) will likely have a new outdoor skatepark as well as an upgraded indoor skatepark by the end of the year.

The Vashon Park District’s project to build a new skatepark outside the indoor one at BARC has slogged along for three years due to slow fundraising and several hurdles in the permitting process.

However, a group of parents and older skaters recently brought new life to the effort, helping park  district officials rethink the project and pledging to raise the funds necessary to complete it.

“This is the most energetic and enthusiastic group we’ve had,” said park district Program Coordinator Susan McCabe, who is heading the project. “These people are results oriented, and they really put their money where their mouth is.”

Since 2009, the park district has spent about $50,000 on designing and attempting to permit an ambitious, four-phase concrete skate park.

About a year ago, McCabe said, the county permitting process turned complicated and costly. Despite a $75,000 grant from King County to help with construction, the district struggled to raise the funds necessary to complete the project and was unable to break ground last spring as hoped. Instead, McCabe said, they decided to go back to the drawing board.

Around the same time, some enthusiastic new members of the BARC Stewards — a group of parents and older skaters who last fall raised nearly $4,000 to help keep the indoor park open — also weighed in on the outdoor park.

Instead of a concrete loop with various skateable features that had been planned for the site at a cost of $120,000, the new stewards decided they’d like to see a large, concrete bowl instead.

Jenni Wilke, a parent involved in the stewards group, said not only would the bowl be less costly, but it’s a popular feature at skateparks these days, and the kids who frequent BARC are excited about it.

“Now we’re able to eliminate some of the features that weren’t as appealing to the skaters and focus on getting the bowl done as soon as possible,” Wilke said.

McCabe said she was thrilled to see new interest in the outdoor park, even if the group wants to change its design. “I just want to see an outdoor skatepark that the community wants and uses,” she said.

The cost of building the bowl will be covered by the $75,000 grant the district received in late 2010. McCabe said the district is now waiting to find what the design for the bowl and additional permitting work will cost.

“They are going to have to raise the extra money it costs to change their mind,” McCabe said.

The BARC Stewards are already planning fundraisers, such as a carnival at the end of June, to cover the additional costs and future improvements to the park. And they recently took on the former Vashon Youth Council’s nonprofit status, something Wilke said will allow them to apply for private grants that were out of reach before.

“It definitely feels like there’s a lot of new momentum,” Wilke said.

While pushing the outdoor skatepark forward, volunteers are also working to assure the indoor park remains a going concern. A group of parents and older skaters has been working long hours at the park, reconfiguring the cavernous space to allow more room for skating and adding ramps to accommodate advanced skaters.

Wilke noted that many skaters lose interest in the skatepark once they become teenagers.

“Previous layouts have been very back and forth, very linear,” she said. “Once they get to a certain level in their skills that become kind of boring and limited.”

The new indoor design — built with money from the Vashon Youth Council — will be more appealing to skaters as they advance in their skills, she said, and she’s already seen some older skaters return after hearing of the remodel.

“Historically, once kids hit 13, 14 or 15, they kind of phase out,” Wilke said. “Our goal is to not lose them.”


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