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More information sought on beach skateboard park

Commissioners appear interested in the idea but want more details on liability and costs for such a facility.

By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001


ST. PETE BEACH -- A skateboarding park at the City Hall complex is a growing possibility.

Commissioners last week told city staff to further investigate liability issues and costs for developing such a facility.

About a dozen teens appeared before the commission to support the proposal.

"It would be cool to have a skateboarding park," said Ryan Anderson, 15. "We skate around our neighborhood and when we go into parking lots, we get in trouble with the police. We don't want to get into trouble."

In January, the parks and recreation advisory committee unanimously endorsed a skate park.

"There is obviously a demand for a location where skateboard enthusiasts can practice their sport safely," Jim O'Reilly said in a report to City Manager Carl Schwing. "The construction of some type of skateboarding area would give skateboarders a legitimate venue, making it easier to prohibit their use in less suitable areas, creating a safer environment for participation overall."

Before recommending a site on the south side of the city gymnasium site, the advisory committee considered and rejected five other possibilities -- Hurley Park, Vina Del Mark Park, Lazarillo Park, Blind Pass Park and Lido Park -- because of inadequate parking or inconvenience to nearby neighborhoods.

"The (city hall/gymnasium) site would be least intrusive into a neighborhood or residential park area. This location would also provide the greatest amount of site security in an area that the community recognizes as a recreation/community focal point," O'Reilly said.

Commissioner John Phillips said the proximity to the police station would enhance security.

"This is the best site," said Mayor Ward Friszolowski.

O'Reilly expects the park would be used by 75-100 young people during peak periods. The park would not be lighted or actively supervised, but skateboarders would be required to wear protective gear, and parents of minors would be required to sign a release before their children could skateboard. Fencing would be installed between the skateboarding area and the water.

The city estimates construction costs between $75,000 and $110,000. Schwing said the park could be financed through Penny for Pinellas capital funds and grants.

The liability issue, a concern of several commissioners, has been reduced by a recent state law that grants municipalities limited immunity against lawsuits.

Vice Mayor Jim Myers said he is "edgy" about approving a new use for property in the city hall complex before a decision is made about a new city hall. "This seems to be hodge-podge. We need a plan for the whole site."

City officials said the skateboarding facility could be moved easily if plans for the site change.

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