Users find skatepark ‘difficult to enjoy’

Skaters and riders at the Cottage Grove Skatepark generally find the park to be lacking amenities and in need of improvements, a recent study conducted by city staff has revealed.

Cottage Grove Assistant Planner Matt Laird presented the information to the city council in a Jan. 24, 2022 meeting.

A survey of stakeholders of the skatepark, which his located just south of Dairy Queen on Highway 99, was conducted during the summer of 2021.

“Generally speaking, most respondents were frustrated with the design and construction of the park, making it difficult to enjoy,” reported Laird.

The largest percentage of users who responded were skateboarders and respondents overwhelmingly said they felt strongly about adding more features such as flat rails, a half-pipe, a bowl, hand rails and mini-ramps.

Other popular additions included a bathroom, a place with better shade, a water fountain, a trash can, a bike rack and roofing.

The majority of respondents also said they did not think the skatepark is inclusive in regard to skill level, age, gender, race or ability and there was a desire to see multiple skill level areas.

Some of the most requested improvements to the skatepark included increasing the size of the park, smoothing the concrete and transitions (due to rough surfaces and bad angles), fixing the bowl coping, fixing the drainage, removing the pyramid and lowering the rail.

Laird said that some of the requests and improvements can easily be added to the park, such as garbage cans or picnic tables and that improvements such as repairing concrete transitions might be an immediate step to prolonging the life of the park.

However, increasing the size of the park, redesigning or adding roof structures would be larger capital projects that may require outside funding sources.

But redeveloping the park would be no small feat.

First of all, this would not be the first attempt at improving the site.

“Some of these ideas have been tried before and were not successful,” states the skatepark report. “For example, there previously was a picnic table, portable toilet, and second garbage at the site, all of which were destroyed by vandals. Volunteer groups have also come and gone over the years. These will be challenges that will need to be addressed as part of any future skatepark planning efforts.”

Still, Laird outlined typical steps toward redeveloping a skatepark.

They begin with the formation of a volunteer group to advocate for the park and be that project’s champion. The project would also require community engagement, creating awareness and support, fundraising, networking, organizing, volunteer recruitment, budgeting, design and construction.

Then on top of all this is solving the issue of long-term maintenance and operation.

The skatepark, originally completed in 2004, has been burdened almost since the beginning by unclear delegation of maintenance and cleaning responsibilities. Its perpetually clogged drain, a source of complaint from users of the park, is a constant reminder of this murky territory.

Initially, a contract with the Cottage Grove Recreation Association stated the association was responsible for the park and its maintenance. The group asked the City of Cottage Grove to take over the park in October of 2004.

Cottage Grove Public Works staff do provide mowing, weekly garbage service and unplug the drain with the same frequency of its other parks, however they do not typically maintain the concrete or sweep off the concrete.

A broom used to be provided at the skatepark for users to clean off the concrete but users of the park told The Sentinel in 2019 that brooms always get stolen, even when replaced.

While groups have volunteered and organized clean-up and maintenance efforts over the years, none have found permanent footing.

Laird suggested that an agreement with a volunteer user group could still help with some of the issues at the park such as trash pickup, sweeping debris on the concrete and painting over graffiti, though there is still the challenge of sustaining the group over time.

The skatepark study also reported that portable toilets used to be located at the site, “but after the second one was burned to the ground they were no longer replaced.”

Trash, graffiti and vandalism have also plagued the skatepark, but users are still keen to use it as it is the only skating option aside from city streets.

Laird’s report states that the skatepark was “not professionally designed or constructed and was built by volunteers doing their best to try and provide a skating experience for the local youth.”

However, he notes that it’s downsides can still be overcome and there is an opportunity to make the park usable in the long-term.

The staff recommendation at the council meeting was to begin by organizing requested improvements into short-, medium- and long-term goals and then begin discussions with the Oregon Department of Transportation about acquiring additional public rights-of-way to expand the size of the park.

While reaching out to professional skatepark design companies to obtain additional information about design and cost, a community conversation could start regarding establishing a volunteer group responsible for maintenance of the park.

Beginning dialogue with companies and foundations regarding grant funding opportunities would also be key.

When the park was still in its concept phase in May of 2003, the City of Cottage Grove committed $20,000 toward its construction. No current estimates on a full renovation were quoted in Laird’s study, however, it notes that new skatepark construction generally runs in the range of $35 to $50 per square foot.

On the design side of the project, Laird noted that comparing Cottage Grove’s skate park to other cities’ parks might not translate perfectly.

“I think that our design would most likely have to be tailored to fit space that we have, which is it’s kind of long and narrow,” he said.

In the council meeting, Councilor Greg Ervin commented that the park has been of particular interest to him since his family began using it.

“It seems like we’re at a bit of a crossroads with the park in its current state,” he said. “When I’m looking at this, I see a hole in activities for certain age groups from outside of school, from middle school through high school, and young adults alike.”

He said he would like to see a park which facilitates outdoor activities for all age groups year-round.

However, the problem of maintenance, he added, has caused it to be become “a habitation for nefarious behavior [and] an eyesore to the community”.

He welcomed further community discussion to build a vision for the park.

Councilor Jon Stinnett referenced Laird’s survey data about the park’s users and frequency of use.

“To me that points to a fair bit of use and a significant number of people who see value in the park,” he said. “I think that means that it would be nice to make improvements and gather the energy and the momentum that’s going to see it into its next phase.”

He agreed with Councilor Ervin that it would be beneficial to keep having conversations about what needs to be done to move forward.


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