Council drops into reserves to continue CB skatepark expansion

Council hears skate community

By Mark Reaman

Despite being rejected from regular grant funding source Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), the Crested Butte town council listened to a packed house of supporters Monday night and agreed to dig into their financial reserves and pull out $450,000 to continue the already scheduled renovation and expansion of the Big Mine Skatepark. Local mothers, fathers and skaters of all ages spoke passionately about the need for the skatepark and the benefits it provides to the community in general. In the end, the council voted 6-0 to pony up the additional money to keep the renovation on schedule for this summer.

“I was here and part of the effort when the skatepark was started in 1997,” said Daniel Hartigan. “Skateboarding is a cheap form of recreation for kids. They can be set-up for 20 years for a couple hundred bucks which is a lot less expensive than a $1,000 mountain bike. It is an important place for people who are maybe not into team sports. It is an important part of the community.”

“In the summer I go to the skatepark a lot,” said young skater Gage Goodnough. “It doesn’t have a lot of variety of features, and I would like to see that expanded.”

Another young skater, Colton Parr, spoke over Zoom. “I’m a skater and I love the skatepark. But our skatepark is so unsafe. It’s kind of crazy,” he told the council. “If you don’t fix it, kids could stop skating. Skating improves mental health and all of us that use the skatepark are a family.”

Skate coach Preston Chubb said the park has deteriorated with age and has become unsafe. He said his students sweep the bowls regularly, but rocks and chips are normal. “All the kids are super respectful, but it is kind of dangerous out there with rocks crumbling everywhere.”

Crested Butte Parks, Recreation, Open Space and Trails director Janna Hansen informed the council in her report that the 25-year-old park “is literally crumbling and requires significant repairs to keep it usable. Substantial drainage problems cause water to pool in the bowls and it is not uncommon for participants in our skate program to be out there with buckets and a sump pump dredging out the park before a program session,” she wrote. 

Hansen added that the town’s insurance company “had been citing the park for necessary repairs for over 10 years.”

Hansen offered the council five alternatives to deal with the GOCO grant absence ranging from having the town make up the $450,000 difference, phasing the project over several years, trying again for the state grant next year and pushing off the $200,000 bathroom project that was part of the proposal and putting the money toward the park.

Gunnison resident Randy Rennie said the park was a huge benefit to the youth of the community. “At the heart of skateboarding is a kind, open and welcoming community. I support doing the skatepark renovation.”

Salle McDaniel agreed. “It is a great outlet for kids of all ages,” she said. “But the current state of the park is unsafe, so it is ready to be renovated.”

“I see the community coming together at the skatepark, so I support the upgrades,” said nearby resident Jeff Derusseau.

Skater Mac Hausdoeffer said he was a regular kid at the skatepark. “I’m there pretty much every day in the summer,” he said. “Kids in town need more options like this.”

“Both my kids spend a lot of their summer over there,” said Kyle Anderson. “It is starting to fall apart and is getting unsafe. It needs to be taken care of. It is one of the most used spaces in Crested Butte in the summer. The town should put in the money to improve it.”

Christina Spatharos said her daughter has chosen to take up the sport and she is supportive. “Skateboarding is an activity that teaches kids perseverance,” she noted.

“The skatepark is a hub of the community and creativity,” added Chloe Bowman. “It is such an important place for our community. It should be of the utmost priority for funding.”

“I have two kids who use the skatepark,” said Chris Goodnough. “The renovation would be beneficial for the town. There are bathrooms in the other town parks. This one needs bathrooms too. Overall, invest in the kids who are part of this town.”

Amanda Whiteford said the park attracts a “non-sexist community. The Crested Butte skatepark has developed such a good community. It is better to be at a safe park instead of one that is falling apart.”

Murphy Smith said he has met many of his close friends at the skatepark and promised it would be a good investment for the community.

Madeline McCarthy said she has helped put on a lot of mental health events at the park. “It is super important to have a safe and updated park for the community,” she said.

Hansen explained to the council how the GOCO grant process had changed and smaller projects like the CB skatepark might not get a favorable eye in the future. Town manager Dara MacDonald said the town had the reserves to cover the gap but noted the Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) that funds many town capital projects has been on the decline of late. She also pointed out much of that pool of money is geared toward affordable housing projects.

Mayor Ian Billick said a rough estimate of the cost of an affordable housing unit to the town was about $250,000, so funding the skatepark would basically cost less than the expense of two units.

Councilmember Jason MacMillan asked if other “in-kind” donations might be secured to help lower the cost of the project. Hansen said there were some such donations lined up but not enough to cover the grant gap.

Councilmember Mallika Magner said the skatepark was a great amenity for town and council should do its best to refurbish it for the next generation.

“I thought the pickleball mafia was a lock, but you guys are great and eloquent,” MacMillan told the more than two dozen skate supporters in the audience along with another two dozen who were online. “I would love to fund it all, but it comes with giving something else up. Trying to find that balance.”

Billick said phasing the renovation didn’t make sense and would be a waste of time and money. Councilmember Chris Haver said he was against reducing the scope of the project and omitting any expansion with just a renovation of the current area. Councilmember Gabi Prochaska asked if a larger project might be viewed more favorably by GOCO. Billick said it sounded like the town should not count too much on future GOCO grants of this sort.

“This is a great turnout tonight,” Billick said. “The question is what do we give up or delay by funding this? Is it the replacement of windows in the budget that is part of our climate action plan? Some workforce housing units?”

“Windows,” responded some in the crowd.

“We need a balanced portfolio, and we are involved in a lot of housing projects,” said Billick. 

“We keep talking about densifying the town,” said Magner. “I like the idea of providing a hangout. It is good to have space. I’m in favor of funding this.”

“I keep thinking about the two units,” said MacMillan. “But this reflects the culture and livability aspect we also talk about. I too am in favor of funding it either in full or by postponing the bathrooms.”

Magner made a motion to have the town make up the grant gap in full.

“I am supportive of that motion. It is a priority,” said Billick. “I love the participation we are seeing tonight. It actually matters and people should understand that if they participate, they can make a difference. But honestly, in the future, there will be things we probably can’t do. I expect a slowdown in the local economy. We are already seeing it in the RETT. So, we will have to be honest with ourselves and know that when it comes to capital projects, things will get tougher.”

With that, the council unanimously voted 6-0 (councilmember Anna Fenerty was not at the meeting) to spend the money out of town reserves. The audience applauded the decision.

The Evergreen Skateparks company has the project on its schedule to start the renovation and expansion work on June 5.

Check Also

Local health coalition starts pilot wellness program

Looking to enroll 150 community members from construction, service and nonprofit industries By Katherine Nettles …