sad_sparkler.jpgFor skaters in Seattle, last year kinda sucked.

It started off crappy. I remember January 3rd, 2007 like it was yesterday. I was sitting at my desk at work, and someone from the Stranger called to ask me how I felt about the demolition of SeaSk8. I had spent the previous 4 years on the SPAC, going to countless meetings, but for some reason no one at Seattle Center felt like notifying any of us about the scheduled bulldozing of a beloved Seattle skatepark.

As 2007 rolled on, the Seattle Center staff, who report to Mayor Nickels, continued to play a shell game with the new location for SeaSk8. Corporate tenants the Experience Music Project, Pacific Science Center, and the Space Needle, fought successfully to keep the new skatepark out of the best location on Broad Street. David Della’s Parks committee then chose a new site on top of a beloved piece of art work. Finally, the City Council, tired and bewildered after years of squabbling over what should’ve been a no-brainer, forced the park into it’s current 2nd and Thomas ‘Pavilion’ site to the tune of 4+ Million dollars and the demolition of an actively-used building.

But things were looking up around August when Kris Fuller gave up on her costly litigation against the Lower Woodland skatepark. However it was not good news when it was said and done. She succeeded in stalling the park’s construction for over a year, and sapped over $20K out of park’s budget in delay and cost increases.

In West Seattle, a few angry neighbors managed to intimidate the Parks Department into pulling skateparks off of two improvement projects. At Ercolini Park, the organizers of the project didn’t even understand why Parks had removed the skate dot from the plans, because “one person had some concerns about noise but that was about it”. At Myrtle Reservoir, 20 neighbors showed up and voiced concerns about crime, degenerate skaters, and a general decline of peace and civility that the skatepark would bring. Further investigation into the emails sent to the Seattle Parks Department told a different story, where neighbors were simply afraid of the kids in the lower income High Point neighborhood coming to play near their houses.

More great news washed over the group that’s been successfully heading up the River City Skatepark project in South Park. They were awarded the remainder of the money they needed through a Department of Neighborhoods grant. This signaled the end of a very positive and successful process in which a community will be building a skatepark that has been entirely funded and driven by citizen effort, totally outside of the Parks Department process.

The city-wide skatepark plan was adopted, ushering in 27 pre-vetted sites as a result of an exhaustive 9-month public process.

Marginal Way poured a huge slab of flat and some more transition, cementing their place as a monument to Seattle skateboarder tenacity, dedication, and incredible sense of community.

2008 may very well be a pivotal year in Seattle’s skatepark history. Lower Woodland will be completed in a few months, and SeaSk8 construction will begin. River City will also be completed, and there are currently efforts in City Council to get funding for skateparks in Judkins, Jefferson, Delridge, and Roxhill. A skatedot fund is also being discussed.

It’s wise not to get your hopes up, as we’ve learned after repeated stalls and bumps along the road to getting more skateparks built in Seattle. But an optimistic eye would see at least a few great opportunities to turn this train around and get Seattle back on the track to becoming a great city for young and old skateboarders alike in 2008.

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