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    Next stop for skate park plan: Where?

    City commissioners will consider 10 sites during a work session that includes other park proposals.

    By MICHAEL SANDLER
    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published December 11, 2001


    LARGO -- Skateboard riders and city officials rarely cruise the same streets.

    But lately the two groups have been surveying Largo for a place where half pikes, quarter pikes and launch ramps are welcome.

    City commissioners today will review locations selected by the city's staff for a proposed skate park.

    The staff has been working with a youth commission in recent years on plans for a 2-acre park where stunts and tricks are acceptable.

    "Some of the young kids harassed by the Police Department say, "I'm not an evil kid. I just don't have a place to do this,' " said City Manager Steve Stanton. "This was our attempt to do something."

    Parks will be a major theme of today's work session. The commission also will consider:

    Recommendations for redesigning the Clock Tower Plaza at Largo Central Park, a project that will cost $25,000.

    Redirecting the focus of the Heart of Largo Festival, making it a family festival to be held April 19 and 20 of 2002.

    But the skate park could occupy the bulk of tonight's session.

    "I think it's probably the least significant," said Stanton. "But for people with young folks, it's important."

    Finding the money for a skate park has not been the problem. The city has set aside $344,000 in local sales tax revenue for construction of a park, which would include a bowl-shaped, concrete concourse, restrooms, parking and drainage facilities. The city would need to hire someone to supervise the facility during operating hours.

    The real challenge will be securing a location that allows skateboard enthusiasts to achieve freedom on the concrete without disturbing the peace of a residential neighborhood.

    The city will consider 10 sites. Some are properties owned by the city; others would need to be purchased or leased.

    Cathy Santa, the city's recreation, parks and arts director, said the best option would be to lease a vacant lot owned by Babcock Furniture off Missouri Avenue and build a portable course.

    Parking and drainage facilities already exist. The property also satisfies the city's desire to be away from homes and between the high school and middle school.

    "It's a parking lot that is not well maintained and could provide us good acres between the high school and middle school," Santa said.

    She said her staff has had difficulty reaching a representative for the furniture chain. Badcock's real estate office could not be reached for comment for this story.

    If that does not work, the city owns several properties, such as Whitesell Park and Softball Complex near the Pinellas Trail. But that land is far from the schools.

    Another alternative would be to purchase new land, but that would add another $350,000 to $500,000 to the cost of the project, Santa said.

    -- Michael Sandler can be reached at (727) 445-4174 or sandler@sptimes.com.

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