Albany is finalizing a design for a skate park

albany skate park meeting 2016-06-15

A project manager from the design firm Stantec talking with people about the design after the meeting.

The long push for skate park in Albany is starting to see some progress. The design for a venue in Washington Park is scheduled to be in place by the end of this month, and construction could be in progress this fall.

Both the bits of news are from a public meeting Wednesday night at the park's lake house to gather input local skaters about the project design. Here are a few more details.

Quick background

albany skatepark public meeting 2014-11-13
The meeting back in February 2014.

The campaign for a skate park in Washington Park has been going on for at least six or seven years. The effort seemed to pick up speed with the changeover in mayoral administrations, and back in the February 2014 the city held a public meeting floating the idea. There seemed to be a lot of support for the idea, both from skaters and groups such as the Washington Park Conservancy.

Since that meeting there haven't been many public signs of progress. But a few key things have happened. One is that the state awarded the city a large grant -- as much as $100k -- for the project. And, as has recently come out, the city has hired the action sports division of the design firm Stantec to work on the project.

The rough outline of the plan

albany skate park meeting 2016-06-15 Kanten Russell
Kanten Russell outlining the project to the crowd.

Kanten Russell -- a project manager for Stantec, and a former pro skateboarder -- was at the Wednesday meeting to outline the plan that's on the table:

Site
The city is looking to build the park on a series of rundown tennis courts in Washington Park near Madison Ave. Those courts -- known as the Blue Banks -- are already a de facto skating spot.

Budget
The budget for the project is $200,000. (In talking with city officials Wednesday, we heard that cost will be covered by the state grant, $12k from the Washington Park Conservancy, and the rest from money the city has already set aside from a pool of money for these sorts of projects.)

That's a decent chunk of money, but Russell said it can get eaten up quickly. (He said the going rate for skate park construction is about $40 per square foot.) So designers will be looking to preserve as much of the current site's surface as possible in order to save on costs and focus the money on building out features.

Design
A design has not been finalized, but will be soon. There was some worry among local skaters about this point after seeing a design that had been included a city request for proposals (RFP) for engineering services for the project. Russell said Wednesday that the RFP design was just a placeholder, and the design process is still open ended.

"We know what works," he told the crowd, "but it's your skate park, not our skate park."

One other thing about the design: Russell said the budget isn't going to cover some major features such as a bowl. (He said a bowl could maybe cost the entire budget.) So the idea Stantec is working with is to focus the design on some of the lower levels of the Blue Banks site, leaving the upper area for later development (and fundraising).

Reaction

albany skate park meeting 2016-06-15 Kanten Russell design discussion window

As mentioned above, when word got out about the meeting this week, there was concern among local skaters about what was in store. But in talking with handful of people after the meeting, the mood seemed to be generally optimistic.

"I think it was a great meeting," Dylan Longton, the organizer of the annual Go Skate Day event (Saturday, June 18 this year), told us afterward. "Got a lot of people together, got a lot of input, and it's not going to be as scary as people thought it would. At the end of the day, it's going to be a win-win for everybody."

That idea that things were headed in a bad direction had prompted Ted Cangero, a longtime skater, to set up an online survey for local skaters to express their opinion about the RFP design. The survey got 82 responses in just a few days, and many of the respondents had a negative view of the design -- criticizing it for not managing the traffic flow of skaters, not being friendly to skaters of different skill levels, and just generally not appealing to the Albany style of skating.

But after Wednesday's meeting?

"I'm pleasantly surprised by how the meeting went," Cangero told us. "I think it's important that they're here, that they're listening."

Cangero made a suggestion during the meeting that city work with a panel of local skaters to serve as a sort of advisory committee for the design. Kanten Russell, the Stantec project manager, seemed to be on board with the idea. And Cangero said it will be important that panel has meaningful influence. "They'll make sure that all this input that's being given right now, that vision gets turned into reality."

On not screwing it up

Albany Washington Park blue banks skaters 2016-April
Skaters at the blue banks this past spring.

Trevor Culley -- the owner of the Seasons Skate Shop on Lark Street, who's been involved in the push for a park for years -- had the most to-the-point reaction we heard Wednesday: "Don't ruin it, don't mess it up. Don't build something that people are going to hate."

Culley explained that the stakes are high for skaters because of the significance of the Blue Banks in the local skating scene.

"If you build a skate park and blow it, generally it just sits there and people will just say it's a terrible skate park," he said to us. "Here, if you blow it, it's a double negative because it took the key ingredient to Albany skateboarding with it. So then there will be nothing. It won't be like, 'Oh, the skate park sucks, we'll go skate The Banks.' The skate park sucks and there is no more Banks. So, that's the real concern on my end."

How to provide input

Stantec and the city will be collecting online public input for the skate park design for one week, starting Friday, June 17 through Friday, June 24. Russell said the company will be folding that input into the park's design, which will be finalized by the end of this month.

Comments

It's great to see cities finally come to the realization that there is recreation beyond "ball sports". While my skating days are well behind me, I'm enthused for the local skaters. Kudos to Albany for building something for its residents.

"The Skate Park attraction to be designed will provide a safe, designated place for wheeled-sport enthusiasts (skateboarders, BMX bike riders, inline skaters, scooter riders, etc.) to develop their skills and enjoy the company of their peers.

The skate park will feature a mix of street and transition-style terrain, with elements designed for all age groups and ability levels."

Nice to hear that they will think of this project from a 'multi-wheeled' perspective. The more users, the better advocacy.

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