Lake Oswego council gives green light for skatepark project
After dozens of residents shared written and spoken testimony in front of the Lake Oswego City Council both for and against a proposal to secure a contract for the development of a skatepark at the Rassekh property near Stafford Road, the council unanimously approved the project during a meeting Tuesday, Jan. 18.
The city added the 10-acre Rassekh parcel into its urban services area in January and the city previously identified 10,000 square feet for a skatepark as one use of the land.
California Skateparks was awarded the contract, which totaled nearly $739,000.
City staff said one component that set California Skateparks apart from other potential contractors was its emphasis on asking the community what it wants the facility to look like and incorporating those suggestions. Councilor Rachel Verdick hoped the final product wouldn't look like an out-of-place slab of concrete, but instead naturally blend into the surrounding environment.
"Their public engagement process is something they've done and been successful over and over again, and results in skateparks that are loved by the communities they're in," Parks and Recreation Director Ivan Anderholm said at the meeting. A skatepark task force will be created to formulate a specific project proposal and public meetings will also take place.
Lake Oswego Council Daniel Nguyen viewed the addition of a skatepark in town as a way to forge greater equity in terms of recreational offerings.
"This community is an inclusive community and that includes not just racial, economic backgrounds, but also how we recreate as well," he said.
Verdick stated: "I think where one of our big gaps is, is the skatepark. I'm very excited for this possibility."
On a similar refrain, Councilor Aaron Rapf said skateboarders deserve a place to practice their sport in town just like athletes of more traditional sports like basketball and volleyball do.
For her part, Jackie Manz said she consulted with Lake Oswego Fire Chief Don Johnson and Police Chief Dale Jorgensen prior to the meeting and both told her a skatepark would have minimal impact on these departments.
Some local community members, notably members of the nearby Palisades Neighborhood Association and Atherton Heights neighborhood, expressed opposition to the project. Some of the concerns include the potential extra strain to the already congested traffic circle at Rosemont Road and Stafford Road — potentially exacerbated by other projects like a new aquatic center — and a preference for other activities and facilities designed for family use.
"Currently traffic flow at Rosemont traffic circle during peak times is already constrained and a failure by city standards. With a new recreation center, revamped golf course and now Rassekh park development, I can imagine the severe congestion and potential for traffic incidents and accidents during weekends and peak traffic times. To add another capacity draw (a skatepark) to the Rassekh development truly seems to be adding insult to injury," Loris Faris wrote to the council.
Lake Oswego City Council John Wendland, however, suggested the skatepark development could actually reduce traffic by reducing trips outside of Lake Oswego and added that as long as he is on council he will work to fight traffic issues in town. He also noted that the skatepark would take up a small percentage of the overall property.
Some of those opposed to the project said a skatepark was one of the lowest priority projects identified in the public engagement process for the park. Mayor Joe Buck said the development doesn't mean the city won't also move forward with higher-priority projects like athletic fields. City employee Bruce Powers also said picnic tables and shelters are included in the plan for the park.
"It's not that the city is not implementing the top priorities at the park. They are all being implemented, including the room for people to gather," Buck said.
Members of the skating community expressed strong support for the project, noting they currently have to travel to Tualatin or other areas to visit a skatepark and that they are often told to leave areas when skating in town.
"My family believes the skatepark is a key feature for our kids to have a much needed alternative form of exercise and training in this community. We currently have to travel past Bridgeport to find a safe and designed skateboard area," Colin Jacobs wrote to the council.
Buck also felt the idea that a skatepark could attract trouble was the opposite of the truth — and that it instead could provide opportunities and teach responsibility.
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