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