After years of deliberation, Portland skateboarders finally know where their new skate park will be located: at Dougherty Field, on the other side of I-295, in a spot currently occupied by dilapidated tennis courts.
The council voted 8-0 to site the park at Dougherty Field — but only after an hour of debate that conjured déjà vu for anyone who’s been following this issue. Two councilors — those who represent the neighborhood around Dougherty Field, where residents have been vocally NIMBY-ish about not wanting the skate park in their area — got up to support an alternative site near Back Cove, on Preble Street. But others said building on that site would be too expensive and would present soil-quality problems.
There was a disheartening possibility early in the discussion that the skate-park question would be postponed yet again — as it was last month, to allow the council’s Health and Recreation Committee to fully evaluate the Preble Street site. But several councilors, along with a couple of Portland residents, pushed for a final decision.
Skateboarder and local activist Eli Cayer, who has attended several skate park-related council and neighborhood meetings over the years, expressed frustration with the slow proceedings — “I don’t know what else to say ... In order for us to raise the money, we need to lock in a location.”
And although his comparison was rather unfortunate, Mayor Nick Mavodones gave a realistic assessment when he compared the skate park debate to a recent controversy over where to put a city dog park — “Where ever you want to site it, there’s a group that doesn’t want it.”
In the end, the council voted to incorporate the skate park into the Dougherty Field master plan, which lays out the neighborhood’s goals for the park — and which has yet to be officially approved by the city council. To okay the master plan will take about six or seven months, Parks and Recreation director Denise Clavette estimated — which gives skateboarders time to raise their cash, and gives disgruntled residents time to work with park designers to ensure that their sound and traffic concerns are addressed.
Now that there’s an official site, Portlander Sarah Margolis will work with Cayer and other skateboarding advocates to apply for grants from local and national organizations that will help pay for the park. They say it will cost between $250,000 and $350,000; the city has already contributed $75,000.