Future of Blaine skate park to be discussed Thursday

BLAINE - Every time Jon Landis has to pass by the community skate park he helped build about three years ago his heart sinks.

The Blaine police officer and many other volunteers created the park by City Hall, the police station and library in 2004 so Blaine kids could have a safe haven to skate away from the dangers of the street.

Now, many of the wooden ramps have holes and the surface is coming up in places. Landis said kids throw their garbage on the park's ground, and vandals have scrawled graffiti across some park structures.

"It saddens me," he said. "Looking at the park every day and seeing what they've done to it, I just kind of want to tear it down myself."

City officials are concerned that the park, in its current state of disrepair, is unsafe. The City Council will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 15, to gather input and discuss the park's fate.

City Manager Gary Tomsic said that it will take a tremendous amount of community support to rebuild the park.

"Whatever we do, it's going to take the kind of effort that was generated to build this one in the first place," he said. "We're really not going to do much without community support, and we need to see if that kind of support is still out there."

Landis first became interested in building a park while working as a school resource officer and hearing from dozens of kids about how much they loved skateboarding. As a traffic safety officer, he knew many kids risked their lives skating in unsafe places.

When Landis built a 4-foot half-pipe in his yard for his own two children, kids from all over town flocked to his house, he said. That was another hint that the community's kids needed a safe place to skate.

With donations raised by the nonprofit Blaine Extreme Sports Club and many contributions of time and money from the community, the park became a reality in late 2004.

In spring 2005, the city's Parks and Recreation Department absorbed the park, taking over funding and future maintenance for it.

The city initially spent $12,500 for lighting, landscaping, picnic tables, new ramps and structures and other improvements and then roughly $6,000 to $7,000 since then in maintenance. But now, with cities all over the county facing budget crises, Blaine needs to decide whether park maintenance is worth the cost.

"It's difficult for citizens' groups to stay engaged for long periods of time to keep facilities like that maintained," Tomsic said. "The city has invested some money in the facility, but obviously we haven't put enough in to keep it as safe as it can be."

Part of the park's deterioration was expected. Landis said the wooden ramps were supposed to last only five to six years before they would need to be replaced with permanent concrete or steel ones.

Still, he's disheartened when he sees trash or when police officers have to take reports of kids smoking near the park or fighting, which happens more often than Landis would like.

"It's painful to see it not work out like I dreamed it would be," he said. "It was supposed to be a place where kids could learn and work together and teach each other instead of skating on the streets and getting hurt."

Reach Anna Walters at anna.walters@bellinghamherald.com or call 756-2883.