By Stephanie Shenouda, Daily Staff Reporter
Published July 15, 2013
Sporting maize and blue shirts that read “I’d rather skate in Ann Arbor,” members of the Friends of Ann Arbor Skatepark — a group formed to establish a public skatepark in the city — gathered at Monday’s Ann Arbor City Council meeting to show support for a vote on skatepark construction in Veteran’s Memorial Park, which lies about two miles west of campus.
The 30,000 square foot, $1.031 million project was approved unanimously by the council, allowing for construction to begin on the project that has been over eight years in the making.
Though initially purposed in 2005, the plan was delayed due to a lack of funds and faced the scrutiny of over a dozen meetings to approve various aspects of the process.
FOAASP worked to raise funds from the community, eventually totaling almost $100,000 and then received a grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund for $300,000. With the Washtenaw County Parks Commission offering a matching $400,000, the group put together $800,000 of funds needed for the project.
Mayor John Heiftje said he was impressed with the community’s efforts to raise the funds for the skate park.
"Just seeing the enthusiasm of the young people that this has really drawn in is (inspiring) and it’s something that we’ve needed in the community for a long time,” Heiftje said.
But FOAASP faces two more hurdles. The project must be completed by Aug. 1, 2014 to utilize the state grant and though the city has fronted the remaining money, FOAASP will need to continue fundraising to bridge the gap.
Councilmember Sally Peterson said she admired the commitment of the skating community, though she was concerned about the city providing the remaining funds for the park.
“I know that this has been going on for a long time, but I feel like we’re here at the eleventh hour with a hiccup in the budget and it’s several hundred thousand dollars with the gap being filled by the city,” Peterson said.
Sumedh Bahl, community series area advisor, said timeliness was a key for the project to succeed.
“We need to have the full contract to move forward, we can’t do it partially,” Bahl said. “We also need to be done by August 1, 2014 so we can use our trust fund grant, so we need to give ourselves time to finish.”
Councilmember Christopher Taylor said though the budget came in higher than everyone anticipated, the staff had diligently worked with both parties to reduce costs. He said he attributed the discrepancy to the construction techniques necessary to create the new park, and ultimately decided it was a worthwhile expenditure.
“Even though it’s costing more than we all thought it would, I think this is a good allocation of resources and it’s going to be a good thing for the city and the kids and grown ups who skate here,” Taylor said.
Councilmember Stephen Kunselman said the project showed how the community and the council could come together.
“This has been a long time coming and I’m very pleased, as are the skaters that are here today,” he said. “It’s like when we were standing on the edge of a big pool looking down, just go for it, you know?”