Our View: City skating by on access
July 11, 2010
Steamboat Springs — As Bear River Skatepark was being developed and built, it seemed like a great amenity that would serve the needs of the skateboarding community. But since the park's completion in May and opening in June, serious access questions have arisen.
The park was built without vehicle access or parking for users and spectators. The only access is the Yampa River Core Trail, and emergency responders said they could use the trail or Lagoon Court in case of an incident at the park.
That doesn't seem right.
The $312,000 cost of the park was covered by a $200,000 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado, $50,000 from the city of Steamboat Springs, $50,000 from the Steamboat Skatepark Alliance, $10,000 from the Yampa Valley Community Foundation and $2,000 from the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs.
City Parks Supervisor Ernie Jenkins said the city has money in its 2011 budget to improve the Lagoon Court road and to work toward a parking area. He said the park was built before access was finished because the money was available.
The city wouldn't allow a private developer such a concession. It would be unacceptable for a developer to build first and address access issues later. This double standard isn't fair and sets a poor example. And the city certainly has made parking available at other athletic venues. How would users have reacted if they couldn't park at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs or Howelsen Ice Arena, for example?
We understand that GOCo grants come with contracts that specify a mandatory completion date, and it may be desirable to land the grant and build the facility while those dollars are available. But the city has funds in its capital reserves for access improvements and should use them. We urge the city to acknowledge the problem, examine the costs and commit to a date by which it can remedy the parking situation.
We also have to wonder about how the city has handled amenities at Bear River Skatepark. The Core Trail dead-ends at a great skatepark that's surrounded by an unwelcoming chain-link fence and a graveyard of Lincoln Avenue concrete. If families want to come watch, they'll have to come down a stretch of the Core Trail, likely the 0.9 miles from the Stock Bridge Transit Center. Places to watch are available — the site includes a picnic table and bleachers — but the lack of parking and difficult access make it unlikely that families with young children will be well served.
Additionally, emergency access is a concern. The Lagoon Court route is available, but responders using the Core Trail from the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge would have to navigate blind corners on a path that seems just wide enough for a vehicle and would have to cross over two narrow wooden bridges on the trail.
On the whole, we think the idea of an enhanced skatepark is great. The skateboarding community historically has been underserved, and it's encouraging that the city recognized this and helped meet a need. The Skatepark Alliance and Jon Casson also deserve credit for their fundraising and lobbying efforts.
But we don't want Bear River Skatepark to offer subpar amenities, and it is a shame that the park is difficult for parents with younger children to access. A private developer never could start a project without addressing these elements up front. Why has the city let itself off the hook? By doing so, the city erodes its credibility with developers and does a disservice to the community. More important, a low standard for a public park has resulted in problems with public safety, security and accessibility.