More than a decade ago the City of Issaquah built a skateboard park behind the Issaquah Community Center. At the time it was state of the art. 10 years later, its functionality has come into question, and diverse sections of the community are calling for its relocation.
Part of their concern relates to the secluded position of the park. It is located along a city trail near three schools – Issaquah Middle School, High School and Clark Elementary – but is hidden behind the Community Center and below a drop-off along 2nd Avenue SE.
Some residents and authorities believe this makes the skate park a magnet for criminals who want to conduct illegal activities, usually vandalism and drug use, out of view of the police and law-abiding citizens.
Perhaps the most vocal proponents of the skateboard park relocation, at least online, are the skaters themselves.
One comment on the Issaquah Skatepark Facebook page reads, “This used to be a sick park. But as skateboarding progressed so did the parks, and Issaquah was soon forgotten. Tucked away near the infamous Issaquah trail, very few people actually skate this park. Stoners have taken over!”
Dan Hughes runs northwestskater.com, a site that gives skateboarding information for parks throughout the country. He said the Issaquah park “is a far cry from a good location for a skatepark. It’s hidden from view, and isolated from the rest of the park.”
On Aug. 2, one concerned citizen drafted an online petition in support of a new park in Issaquah.
“We should demolish and move the skatepark somewhere else…because of the bad influences,” wrote Zach, the author of the petition. “Down the trail next to the skatepark there are kids who do drugs all the time.”
Zach’s petition can be seen online at www.petitionvoice.com/new-issaquah-skatepark-petition. The petition has so far drawn seven supporters, one of which states “I’ve experienced the drug problem first hand, and the proposed (new) location is a great idea. Skaters need a good place to skate!”
Another reads “The skatepark we have is outdated, and the cracks and benches are a security hazard.”
Cmdr. Scott Behrbaum of the Issaquah Police department said they were aware of the issue of drugs and vandalism at the skateboard park, but claimed the problem was no worse than in other well-used open spaces.
“We keep an eye on it,” he said. “We want to discourage such activity, so there are times when we increase police presence. We also work with the parks department to maintain the area, trimming the shrubs and replacing light bulbs.”
City of Issaquah Parks and Recreation Director Anne McGill said a parks department staff member spends 30 minutes every day picking up trash in the park, though she did admit the city had stopped replacing damaged benches due to repeated vandalism.
A few years ago, the city installed cameras at the skate park to deter criminal activity, but the cameras’ success had been hard to quantify. According to the parks maintenance division, the cost of graffiti removal since alone since 2001 was in excess of $4,000.
Zach’s online petition claims the city is planning to demolish the skateboard park. But according to McGill, the demolition and/or relocation of the park is still up in the air.
“The parks department submitted a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) request to the mayor and city council for consideration in the 2011 budget,” she said. “The council begins budget deliberations in the fall and usually adopts the new budget in December. No decisions have yet been made.”
This is not the first year the parks department has requested funds to build a new skateboard park. For the last three years, it has submitted CIP requests stating “The existing concrete skate park located south of the Community Center has been through many years of costly vandalism due to its remote and non-visible location.”
The parks department current CIP request is for $350,000, with $200,000 coming from city funds and $150,000 being raised from grants and private donors. The bidding process won’t start until they get approval from the city council, so this figure is just an estimate based on information obtained from potential vendors.
Though the city council has repeatedly rejected the park department’s request for funding of a new skateboard park, the issue is not likely to go away. Last year, several Issaquah Highlands residents attended the Dec. 7 council meeting to voice their support for constructing a skate park in their area. It can be a challenge for Highlands kids to walk or skate the three miles to the downtown skateboard park, residents have said, so skaters illegally use the front steps of Grand Ridge Elementary to practice their skills.
This brings up another issue discussed on Zach’s petition: the possibility of not having a skateboard park at all.
“If Issaquah doesn’t have a skatepark there would be conflict,” he wrote online. “Since kids wouldn’t have a place to skate they would skate places where they are not allowed to. I don’t want skating to become a crime in Issaquah.”
Regardless of whether a skater considers the current skateboard park cool or lame, it likely won’t be dismantled in the immediate future. The next hurdle for relocation supporters is to convince the mayor and city council that the project should be added to the 2011 budget. Budget deliberations begin this fall, with a public hearing scheduled for Dec. 6.