myrtle_05082.jpgLast night’s meeting for the Myrtle Reservoir park project was yet another exercise in futility for local skaters and skatepark supporters. Suddenly the conspiracy theories about how Seattle government operates, with a few well connected people pulling the strings connected to Greg Nickels’ appendages, are starting to seem plausible.

When I served on the task force for the city-wide skatepark plan, several people in the Parks Department insisted that I focus my advocacy efforts on the Myrtle Reservoir project because they thought it would be a good location, but more importantly “it’s the only project in the foreseeable future that has any funding”. I was explicitly told that this was the West Seattle skateboarder’s best chance of getting a skatepark built any time soon.

So imagine my shock when after two pretty nasty public meetings, where my own neighbors called me a degenerate and criminal, the rug got yanked out from under the skatepark portion of the Myrtle project. I received a phone call at around noon yesterday from a seemingly disheveled Virginia Hassinger, project manager for the Myrtle project, notifying me that new Parks Superintendent Tim Gallagher had made an executive decision to “not pursue funding for the Myrtle Skatepark feature”.

To most people this would not seem like news because all along Parks has been saying that there currently is no funding for the skatepark element. However, responding to the large number of pro-skatepark responses that rolled in after Myrtle meeting #2, Parks staff actively started looking for ways to get money for the skatepark feature. That is…until yesterday morning when Superintendent Gallagher issued his executive order to stop that process.

Not having funding for a skatepark is nothing new to Seattle, as the money for the existing skatepark projects has come about as a result of aggressive panhandling techniques in City Council chambers (2007 City Budget – SeaSk8 replacement), and a veritable community riot in Ballard back in 2004 (Mayor’s budget – Lower Woodland). I had to lobby for WWRC funds in Olympia to complete the funding for Lower Woodland (which ended up going toward the Ercolini acquisition, and then Seattle Parks subsequently decided to pull the skate dot out of that plan as well), we’ve held bake sales, and written our own grants only to have the project fizzle because the neighborhood matching dollars were denied.

But what’s unique about this latest installment of “Dude, where’s my skatepark”, is the severity and lack of transparency associated with this sudden and last-minute about-face move by Gallagher, executed in the face of what could easily be quantified as enough community support to justify the skatepark project.

I don’t know the exact numbers, but Parks has told me that they received “a lot” of positive emails from the community supporting the skatepark at Myrtle. They also documented all of the pro-skatepark input at meeting #2 and acknowledged that it was substantial enough to warrant moving forward with the project. At the Morgan Community Association meeting on April 16th, Virginia Hassigner announced that “the decision is made to set aside an area of the Myrtle park for a future skate(board) feature.”

So what’s really going on here? What influenced this rash and immediate turnaround?

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Skateboarders and skatepark advocates that have been working through the arguments and trying to find a middle ground with anti-skatepark neighbors should feel burned by this, as a lot of time and energy has been wasted on a project that could’ve been spared had Parks not dangled the concrete carrot in front of us for the last 9 months. Personally I know that’s another 9 months added to the almost 5 years of volunteer skatepark advocacy I’ve been doing that I won’t get back. It’s time lost that could’ve been spent with my family, my job, and …you know… living my life.

But what’s even worse than the personal sacrifice is that the 10 young skateboarders that were at the meeting last night, and the multitudes of kids who skate in West Seattle, that will have to wait for another project, at another time, in another location, with all of the same process, community resistance, and life-consuming process that’s required just to get to where we were at noon yesterday on the Myrtle project. We just lost another year of skatepark effort. If the next project is three years away, we’re looking at yet another generation of teens who will go through high school without a skatepark. Quite frankly, it’s hard to digest.

The worst part of all of this is the gross waste of volunteer and community time and effort laboring over the skatepark issues, only to be snuffed out with one quick and oblique autocratic decision, whose owner didn’t even respect his audience enough to provide them with a decent explanation.

Once again, Seattle skateboarders have more than enough reason to be furious. How much of this we’re expected to endure is beyond me.

Check out the ongoing coverage and comments on the West Seattle Blog and at the West Seattle Herald’s site.

3 Responses to “Dude…where’s my skatepark?”
  1. sir jorge says:

    i can’t believe this happened, it seems like the city just doesn’t get it.

  2. Seattle Sucks says:

    I find it ironic that Seattle perceives itself as diverse when it continually proves to be a cold, self-centered and close-minded “community”.

    Thank god for the terrain because the people here suck!

  3. warm in Hawaii says:

    Even in a small place like Hawaii we have managed to have skateboard and hockey parks placed thru out the communities and like Seattle, it all came about thru community effort. It boggles the mind when those with the power to do good things for kids seem to find other things more important. Our future will reflect that (those with the power) and it may not be to your liking.

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