Skateboard park

Dear Council Members;

I understand you are seriously seeking sites within the city park system for the construction of a skateboard park. I have followed that issue for many years and I believe that your initiative is ill advised.

First, the City of Rockford has never been in the recreation business. That need has been filled by Rockford Public Schools and various volunteer organizations such as Little League and Rocket Football. Unfortunately skateboarding falls outside the realm of organized sports. That also means it generally is unsupervised.

You may or may not know that the business community funded a skateboard park at North Middle School some years ago. Skateboarders had become a problem in the downtown business district so merchants contributed to build a park for the kids. Admittedly it was nothing special, but it was well used. Too well used, to be specific. Neighbors and the school administrators asked that it be removed after a fairly short experiment. There was no supervision except for the regular visits from the police department in response to complaints.

It is very true that those were different kids, but next year and the year after that it will be different kids, too. The fundamental rule is kids need supervision. Are you committing city funds for that purpose? If not, your actions may be with good intentions, but they are still irresponsible.

Secondly, we don’t have a location to build a first class facility. As I related above the merchants tried a less than first class skate part and it didn’t work. Rockford does things right! If you are committed to proceed you need to hire professionals to study the options and design something the community can be proud of. Make sure you find a neighborhood that supports your view. It would be very disappointing to see a skateboard park built in a neighborhood that doesn’t fully support the idea.

Lastly, I hope you will be consistent in your attitude about funding. Two years ago when the dog park was first proposed the council firmly stated that no public funds would be used. You determined the inactive site could be used if private funding could be raised. The dog park supporters raised every cent for the construction of that park and the park has been well received.

You reinforced your position with the Rockford Historical Museum. They could not even enter a lease until they raised over $200,000.00. You have set a strong and appropriate precedent for this type of request. As I understand your position, it is that the city and its elected representatives will not stand in the way of creative ideas, but when those ideas are for other than the general public good it will be the responsibility of the organizers to present a plan. That plan should include design and funding and it should be to a standard that makes Rockford proud.

A proud Rockford citizen,

Neil C. Blakeslee

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  1. James Withers says:

    It’s good to see Rockford considering building a skate park for the kids. Not every child wants to play football and baseball, and considering the amount of taxes Rockford residents pay for the football program and other sports programs at Rockford High School it seems like a more than worthwhile investment. More of the teenagers in our community would use this facility than will ever be allowed to play on the “organized sports” teams once they hit high school.
    If it is true that Rockford has never been in the “recreation business” why is it we have so many city parks? I live behind Rotary Park, and there is a full basketball court, that is completely “unsupervised” and “unorganized” and yes a lot of foul language sometimes comes from it, and noise, and I don’t hear anybody in my neighborhood, (or Mr. Blakslee for that matter) urging the public to not allow basketball courts in Rockford any longer.
    Another point I think needs to be made is that the majority of those who skate board will not be playing “rocket football” because they are generally jr. high school to high school age. Furthermore this letter really shows a lot of prejudice regarding what are permissible, and beneficial activities in Rockford. We benefit greatly by the recreation that is present in this area.
    Those that use the river for kayaking, and canoeing contribute to our economy, as well as those who use the White Pine Trail. Having first class mountain biking trails (Merrill Trail, and Luton Park) brings many to our shops and restaurants who would otherwise never come here. Recreation is something we have going for us. Much of it we luckily don’t have to pay for directly because it is sponsored by other townships,the state or the county. I certainly would not consider these things outside the public good.
    If allowed a skate park would be used by the skaters, and bmx kids currently riding downtown, and I’m sure it would see a lot of use. I would suggest putting it in Rotary Park (being in my back yard) and I think most of the residents that border it would welcome a venue for these kids. If they get out of control like they sometimes do at the basketball court we can just ask them to quite it down. I am sure they will show as much respect as the majority of the basketball players flying the F bomb every six seconds behind my house (they generally are respectful after you ask). In my experience skateboarders aren’t fundamentally different than any other kids, and I don’t see why we shouldn’t support a healthy activity so many Rockford kids are involved in.
    Rockford is a great place to live because of the diversity of recreational activities, and I hope as a community we will not be so hopelessly out of touch that we don’t see what people are really looking for in a great community. When I say I live in Rockford the positive comments I get from people are the fantastic opportunities for recreation in this community, and what a great place it is for kids. I am optimistic that the current City Council gets this.

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