Huckstep emphasizes money as an issue
In an effort to provide some feedback to the consultants looking at a Big Mine Park master plan, the Crested Butte Town Council is generally not opposed to moving the Crank’s Tank skate park from Big Mine to somewhere else in town, perhaps in the vicinity of Rainbow Park.
In a work session held Monday, March 2, the council, along with some members of the local skateboard community batted around ideas about the 5,500-square-foot facility built in 1997.
When first constructed, it was cutting edge and it actually became a destination for skateboarders. But at 18 years old, it is nearing the end of its useable life, and it is estimated that a park that is closer to 10,000 square feet is more in line with current demand and standards.
The town staff was asking the council if they were opposed to moving the park from its current location.
“I have no problem moving it but to me, you have to look at everything. You can’t solve all the problems looking at one thing in isolation,” said councilperson Skip Berkshire.
“If the sledding hill disappeared, would there be enough room to expand it?” asked councilman Jim Schmidt.
“Absolutely,” said town Parks and Recreation director Janna Hansen. “But there are considerations. Big Mine is not ideal for the facility given it is a shaded location and there is roof shed from the ice rink. Spatially it is fine. But relocating would be more expensive than keeping it there and giving a concrete overlay to the current park.”
“Whether it moves or not, it needs to be fixed,” added parks supervisor Pete Curvin. “Our insurance company is ready to close it unless we repair it. We have to throw some money at it soon.”
“The harsh reality is that is why we had a Parks and Recreation tax initiative on the ballot last fall,” said mayor Aaron Huckstep. “There are financial realities.”
“I can support the idea of moving it since it would open up some design opportunities for hockey and Nordic,” said councilperson Glenn Michel. “It really doesn’t melt out very fast over there.”
“The sledding hill is more popular than the ice rink during the day,” added Curvin. “It’s probably 10-to-1. If there are two people using public skate in the day, there are probably 20 kids on the sledding hill. It is our most popular daytime amenity in town.
“I just hate to see things go away that people love in town,” continued Curvin. “I don’t know where the sled hill could go.”
Skateboarders Danny Hartigan, Trea Sciortino and Elliot Stern want to keep the park in Big Mine, given the historical nature of the facility. “There’s definitely historical value where it is,” said Hartigan. “It was the first skate park built by skateboarders. It hurts me to think about moving it. Maybe we build a kid’s park somewhere else in town. That would be a win-win.”
“I agree with the historical element,” said Sciortino. “And when I hear the term ‘when the funds become available’ it scares me. If you took away the original skate park, you’d have to do something really good that would trump it with the skating community.”
“The original Parks and Rec master plan said the skate park was a very used, good amenity for town,” said Stern. “A 10,000-square-foot park might be great but let’s see it funded and built before we do anything at Big Mine.”
“The dollars and cents is a matter that no one can ignore,” emphasized Huckstep. “Right now we are just trying to give some information to the consultants, Mundus-Bishop.”
“I like the idea of the historical value,” said councilman Roland Mason. “But at the same time, what can be done with the sledding hill and hockey in that area?”
“We know we don’t have the money for anything right now but it is time for a plan,” said Hansen. “The sledding hill was there before the skate park so it also has historical value. We are looking at what makes the most sense holistically.”
“We are looking at the policy question right now,” said Huckstep. “I don’t have an issue with it moving but we want to look at what makes sense overall. The finance issue will be here.”
Town manager Todd Crossett said nothing was set with a location and “the consultants might conclude that Big Mine is the best place for the facility and that recommendation would come to the council,” he said.
Schmidt said his first reaction was to locate it in the gravel pit at the entrance to town. “There is a lot of elbow room over there.”
“That’s the last piece of land in town where any large building like a recreation center or future school expansion could be located,” said Hansen. “The town staff is looking 20 years down the road and we are hesitant to put concrete over there.”
The council discussed putting it along the edge of Gothic Field by town hall, and in the Eighth Street Greenway space that isn’t really yet green. Mason suggested that could be a “unique opportunity but I’m not sure what the neighbors would think.”
“I don’t think you need to be clairvoyant to know that the more residential an area, the more pushback you’ll get with a skate park in the neighborhood,” said Building and Zoning director Bob Gillie.
“I’m not sure I agree with that,” countered Huckstep.
Schmidt wanted to make sure that an affordable housing lot was not lost to put in a skate park if it was relocated just northwest of the soccer field at Rainbow Park.
“Sometimes there is sacrifice to make things happen,” said Berkshire. “The town has done and continues to do a lot of things for affordable housing.”
“I am okay if it works there and it benefits the greater good,” agreed Michel.
“We are seeing too much pressure with the need for affordable housing so I couldn’t agree to that,” said Huckstep.
Eventually the council came to a consensus that perhaps the ideal location for a move, if a move were needed, would be the southwest area of Rainbow Park near the climbing boulder.
“We are just trying to take the temperature of the council and give some feedback to the consultants,” said Crossett.
The council also agreed that the dirt bike jumps should be moved this summer while infrastructure is put into nearby town blocks that will be used for affordable housing. The council felt the gravel pit would be the ideal location. “The gravel pit is ugly, the dirt jumps are ugly. They’re a marriage made in heaven,” quipped Schmidt.