Park district revives effort to build outdoor skate bowl in Burton

More than three years after the Vashon Park District received a grant to create an outdoor skatepark, commissioners have voted to move ahead with a significant piece of the project.

In the winter of 2010, King County awarded the park district a $75,000 grant to help fund the project at the Burton Adventure Recreation Center (BARC), and park district officials expected to break ground in the spring of 2011.

Since then the project has been beset with delays, but commissioners voted last week to take a significant step forward. In a unanimous vote, they agreed to spend up to $17,000 on engineering services necessary for construction, with 80 percent of the funds coming from the park district and 20 percent from the BARC Stewardship Council, a nonprofit group that supports the park. These services, not covered by the grant, will be paid for from the park’s reserve fund and community fundraising efforts.

In an interview following the meeting, Elaine Ott, the executive director of the park district, expressed her support of the project — a concrete bowl, a popular feature in many skate parks.

“The indoor skate facility is fine, but this is going to put a sparkle on that park,” she said.

Members of the stewardship council also welcomed the news of the vote, including Jenni Wilke, whose 12-year-old son is an avid skateboarder, along with several of his friends.

“They are so excited,” Wilke said. “They do not believe it is going to happen. Their whole childhoods they have been waiting for it.”

Indeed, construction of the bowl is not certain yet, though it appears to be getting closer.

The stewardship council needs to raise as much as $3,400, which BARC steward Allison Reid said the group will likely do through a crowdfunding campaign, such as Kickstarter. Members of the BARC group previously discussed a variety of options, she said, but given the quick timeline — the money will likely be needed in August, park board members said — crowdfunding seems the quickest solution, barring an unforeseen turn of events.

“Of course, if we could get a big name artist, we could have it done in one night,” Reid said with a laugh.

The campaign to raise the funds will likely begin by July, she said, but noted that the group had not had time after the recent vote to finalize its plans.

When the engineering work is completed, likely later this summer, Ott said, the commissioners will have to approve going out to bid on the construction project itself.

The timing of the project is now critical, Ott noted, as the $75,000 grant, which will reimburse the district for construction costs, will expire in December. However, the timing of the project is also being influenced by the district’s cash flow and whether or not it can secure a line of credit. Though relying on borrowed money has drawn criticism in the past, the district is seeking a line of credit up to $150,000 this year. With that line in place, Ott said, the project could be completed in  late summer or early fall. Without it, the district would not have adequate cash on hand to front the money for construction until October.

Should all the pieces not come together this year, leaving the district unable to use the $75,000 grant, the park district could choose to fund the construction of the project on its own in the future, Ott said, as it owns the bowl design and will soon have the engineering work as well.

“It is likely it will happen now,” she said. “If not, it could happen down the road.”

Over the course of the project, which began in 2009, the park district has spent about $70,000, Ott said, with approximately $28,000 coming from grants from The Seattle Foundation and the Lucky Seven Foundation as well as other funding, including money the BARC Stewards raised for the project. In order to qualify for the $75,000 grant and get it extended to the end of this year, King County required a “match” of funds, and the park district has met that obligation, Ott said.

Nick Ranney, a skater himself and the father of four, has been involved with the skatepark since 2011 and has been active in trying to bring the project to fruition. He predicts the bowl will be a big draw for the park.

“I think you’ll see a return of many skaters who have grown bored with the indoor facility,” he said.

The indoor skate park is excellent for beginners, he added, but a bowl will be a boon for many others.

“It will allow skaters on the island to expand their skills and experience state-of-the art features instead of going to Seattle to do it,” he said.

After so many years in the making, Ranney said, he and many others who appreciate the park and want to see it grow are anxious to see the grant used and the bowl constructed.

“I am hopeful, Ranney said. “ We are not going to let it rest.”

He added that further enhancements could be made to the park that would draw other kids and families, but those will have to wait.

“We have to get this bowl before we can think about that,” he said.

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