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Thursday, December 17, 2009

City Yanking Palmer Park From Skate Boarders

In 2005, the Janesville city council approved of Palmer Park for the location of a skate board park.
Janesville City Website Excerpt:
The City of Janesville has approved a site for a new skate park. This park is intended to serve skate boarders, roller bladers, and BMX bikers. This skate park will be located in Palmer Park on the north side of Palmer Drive between the Spring brook trail and the 30-stall parking lot adjacent to the sand volleyball courts. The fundraising goal for this project is $300,000.
Janesville Kiwanis Excerpt:
This park has been under plans for the last 3 or so years. It will be located in Palmer Park and will be used by skateboarders, BMX bikers, etc. The goals is to give kids a fun, safe place to skate and keep it close to Palmer Park so families are all in the same vicinity.

Janesville Skate Park Excerpt:
After extensive research was done on many possible locations. Recommendations were made by City of Janesville, Leisure Services and The Janesville Skate Park Committee to the Janesville City Council. The Janesville City Council agreed that the Palmer Park was the best location. Land was set aside and a sign was erected at the site.
What has changed since? Except for the economy, not much. Admittedly, after four years have passed, the private group behind the drive to raise money for the skate park collected only $26,000 of a $250,000 goal, but that should be no reason to pull the Palmer Park site away.

So why did several council members at Monday night's council meeting give the impression Palmer Park is off limits? Unfortunately, several past and present Janesville city council members have unfairly juxtaposed another location for the skate park after the debate was long over. The other location, near the batting cages at Jackson and Delavan, is a disadvantaged area of the city that desperately needs a coherent and viable redevelopment plan before considering injecting any serious capital. In fact, I have trumpeted the area on my blog as holding the greatest potential for private redevelopment in the entire city. But that's all irrelevant to the skate board park simply because they already have a site. Or at least they thought they did.

At Monday night's council meeting, council member Bill Truman seemed personally offended by some comments made by the skate board park organizer.
JG Excerpt:
“You mention the Fourth Ward like it’s the baddest place in the city,” said Truman, who lives there. “I don’t have the problems you think the kids are going to have … We don’t have rapes, robberies. You hit a nerve with me.”
In a way I don't blame him, but his remarks are being used as a foil by the newspaper and the anti-skateboard crowd to move the skate park plan away from Palmer Park. Unless I've missed something over the years, the Jackson Street/Rock river location was never chosen for development such as a children's museum, a new ice arena, a new fire station, a new aquatics facility, wading pool, pavilions, baseball diamonds, volley ball courts, or a new recreational anything. Now that's offensive. There's no viable or working plan. Instead, the city has been knocking buildings down and wants to pull the batting cages out.
JG Editorial Excerpt: (August. 2008)
Many nearby residents never wanted the skate park to further congest beautiful Palmer Park, and dog owners don’t want the facility to squeeze their pet exercise area.
The location chosen for the skate board facility is on the north side of Palmer Drive in the east portion of Palmer Park between the Spring brook trail and the 30-stall parking lot adjacent to the sand volleyball courts. In other words, the skateboard site is landlocked by the park and other recreational activities. Unlike a tavern and private volley ball courts that were recently approved in a different Janesville neighborhood despite heavy opposition from nearby residents. The Gazette even editorialized against the homeowners living directly across the street from the proposed tavern.

So, it really boils down to this, and as plainly spoken as I can write it. There is little good reason for anyone to be against putting a skate board park in Palmer. Some of the folks who don't want the skate board facility at Palmer seem to be saying "we don't want Fourth Ward "type" kids in our park." That could be closer to the awful truth as ugly as it sounds. If council members have heard anything remotely close to that kind of rhetoric from constituents, they should report it as hate speech. With that in mind, it is possible that putting a skate board park in Palmer could be putting the skate boarders in harms way.

On the other hand, if my hunch is wrong and a skate park never goes into Palmer because of supposed "congestion" or "crowding", residents should keep a close eye on the park in the near future and watch for any additional or expanded recreational activities or development.

Lastly, the entire argument for a skate park anywhere in Janesville could be a moot point because the city has set a very tight funding policy for the skate park people to jump through. If they were able to raise only $26,000 over four years, I can't imagine they would reach $200,000 in a year's time given the economy and a different site. I hope I'm wrong.

Note: This posting is the independent perspective of its author and is not affiliated in any way to the skate park organizers.

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