SALISBURY – After six long years, the City Council has approved a grant to begin the process for a modern skate park facility to be constructed in Salisbury.
According to Community Development Director Deborah Stam the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has informed the city the Community Parks and Playgrounds (CP&P) grant application in the amount of $262,000 for Phase 1 of the Salisbury Skatepark has been officially approved by the State Board of Public Works.
“Finally, after six long years of hard work, determination and perseverance, we are ready to move forward with this long-awaited project,” Stam said.
Stam furthered, the Salisbury skate park will be a poured-in-place concrete structure and it will be put out to bid as a design-build contract, so that the designer and the construction contractor are working together every step of the way. The design process will include planning sessions with local skateboarders and general public to ensure the best final product.
Phase 1 of the skate park project will include the design of the project, site preparation work, construction of the first 6,000 square feet of the poured-in-place concrete, purchase and installation of some of the fencing, the Skate Park Rules/Funding Acknowledgement sign and a couple of trash cans.
On Monday evening, the City Council had a Resolution come before them to accept the CP&P grant funds. In order for Salisbury to be approved for the grant, a site for the skate park had to be selected and proposed to the DNR for approval.
“We have been working on the site for a while now and we have finally arrived at the conclusion that it will be constructed on South Park Drive,” City Administrator John Pick said.
It immediately became apparent council members were irritated over the fact the grant was approved based on South Park Drive being the selected site by administration. Members of this council and the previous version of the body advocated moving the skate park to North Park Drive.
“When you build something like this … you want to make sure it is in an area that has a certain amount of pedestrian and vehicular traffic because it is not good to be off in an isolated area, so that’s another reason why the South Park Drive is a good location because it is not overly busy, it’s not a dangerous street, but there is a decent amount of pedestrian and vehicular traffic so that there is an interaction, and it is a visible area,” Stam said.
Councilman Tim Spies stated his opposition to approving the resolution due to the grant being directly linked to South Park Drive.
“I believe it to be a terrible site, and putting the cart in front of the horse like we did with this grant, without coming to council first to investigate other sites, to even consider other sites was just backing the council into a corner,” Spies said.
Council President Jacob Day agreed the process for the city to receive the grant was flawed.
“It occurs to me that there is a logical order that would behoove us to follow in the future,” he said.
The identification and support of the council on a location prior to the acquisition of funding or the seeking of funding should come first, Day said, followed by a design.
“This does not seem like the best site to me,” Day said. “I do feel backed into a corner … with the money in hand combined with the fact that there are so many people in this community that want a skate park, regardless of where it is located … and this has my support for that reason.”
Councilwoman Shanie Shields was also in favor of moving the skate park forward but hoped the grant process proved to be another example of how administration and the council need to work together better.
“I hope in this term the administration and the council can work together without battling, and something like this that has been going on for six years should not be a battle for our young people. They are the future of the City of Salisbury,” she said.
Councilwoman Terry Cohen, who has served since 2007, looked back at all the issues that have been working against the skate park, such as protection of the environment, attempting to work with the county to get support of this regional facility, leveraging the park for the enjoyment and economic sustainability of it and the taxpayer costs of controlling behavior and use there.
“I don’t agree that we should be backed into a corner and take something because the money is there,” she said. “Our job is sometimes to do the unpopular thing and say no. Let’s get it right before we get the money.”
Day concluded by calling upon the community to participate in the design of the skate park as well as pleaded with the administration to keep the council involved.
“The acceptance of the grant is one thing, but I want to make sure the council is kept abreast of the design process. At the very least if we can come back here to see the plans once they are developed,” he said.
The council voted 3-2 to approve the resolution with Cohen and Spies in opposition.