HUDSON — City officials are looking to expand the skate park by about 2,500 square feet as part of a planned renovation of the entire site.
Council previously authorized spending $250,000 to renovate the park structures and pad at Veterans Way Park that have been in place for 15 years.
City Manager Jane Howington said skate boarders visited council and the park board several months ago recommending the city either expand the 7,500-square-foot park or remove some equipment to create more space. Council asked city staff and park board members to meet with the skate boarders and discuss ideas with them.
As a result, the park board is requesting $75,000 more in funding to enlarge the footprint of the proposed skate park renovation by 2,500 square feet. According to Hudson Park Board Chairman Keith Smith, the overall cost to enlarge the park is $125,000, but a $50,000 voluntary donation from Vans Shoe Co. will bring the city’s expense down to $75,000.
The legislation to request the additional money had a first reading at the council meeting on June 18.
Smith said that without the renovation, the park would have to be closed next year due to safety concerns.
"The skate park in its current condition… is being held together with bubble gum and hockey tape," said Smith. "It’s on its last year of use. Our parks department staff has done an exceptional job taking that equipment past its usable life ... It’s our opportunity now to take a look at that skate park and make something great."
Smith said the life expectancy of the new equipment will be 20 years; the current equipment’s life expectancy was 10 years.
Council President Bill Wooldredge (At Large) said the money being handled by the park board can only be used for park system expenses. A portion of the city’s income tax collection is allocated to the parks.
"[That money] cannot be used for fixing roads," said Wooldredge.
Smith said 26 people visited a park board meeting earlier this year to talk about the planned renovation of the skate park. He estimated 15 to 18 of those visitors were from out-of-town and some drove two to three hours to attend the meeting.
"That’s never happened, not once, since I’ve been involved with the parks…said Smith. "…The passion in the room was amazing. We had people from 8 years old to people 56 years old, who have been skateboarding the better part of their lives."
Smith said when he visited the skate park earlier this month, there were 22 people ranging in age from about 8 to 18 using the facility. He said only about five or six could use the skating area at any one time because "it’s too small."
Despite having minimal space, Smith praised the way the young skaters interacted with each other and shared the space.
"Those kids are patient, they wait for each other, they help each other get up when they fall down, they cheer for each other when they finish a trick," said Smith. "They will try a trick a hundred times over and over and over. They’ll fall, they’ll get back up again and do it again until they finish it. You can’t tell me skateboarding doesn’t teach you good values."
He noted every park activity in the city supports people from other towns who like coming to Hudson.
"Did you ever think that these kids at this skate park might be here because they don’t feel safe going to a park around the corner from their house?" asked Smith. "They get together and get a ride and they come to Hudson because it’s a safe place for them to go ride their skateboard."
He also emphasized that having a refurbished and well-equipped skate park "is a big deal" for the city because it provides an activity for young people.
"It does a lot of things for these kids…it gives them a place to go, it lets them not look at a video screen," said Smith.
Smith told council that just because skate boarding "is not a sport that we’re all familiar with, just because it’s not something that has a ball and just because the people that look different skateboard there, isn’t a reason to say no."
He said the parks budget is "very, very, healthy," and noted the additional $75,000 requested "to make this skate park great does not put a dent in the financials of the park board’s budget."
As a point of comparison, Smith noted the city spent about $200,000 on a splash pad which is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and that site is only typically used by children up to about age 9. The city is also planning to spend "millions of dollars" to install multipurpose paths in the parks.
Council member Lisa Radigan (Ward 2) said skate boarding will be an Olympic sport next year, which means she anticipates the level of participation will expand in upcoming years.
City Council in December 2018 approved a $25,865 contract with Grindline for design services for the project.
Jody Robert, the city’s communications manager, said the construction project still needs to be bid, and does not have a time table on when that will happen.
Council is now on its summer break and will next meet on July 9 at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall, 27 E. Main St.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.