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Skate park may be switched to South Hill Park

For the past several years a group of people have been interested in building a skate park at SunnyView Park. But, following this past Monday night's Sunnyside City Council meeting, the skate park could have a new home.

The location of the skate park became the focus at Monday night's meeting when Council discussed and approved the Sunnyside Parks and Recreation Department's comprehensive parks and recreation plan.

Council was considering the updated parks plan to assist the city in applying for funds to help finance various projects, including the skate park. This marks the first time in 12 years Council has approved the updated parks and recreation comprehensive plan.

Sue Jetter, who is the grant writer for the city, was on hand at Monday night's Council meeting.

Jetter touched on the five new areas in the comprehensive parks plan. The new areas include the development of a skate park at SunnyView Park, replacement of the South Hill Park tennis courts, completion of various projects for the Centennial Pathway and the extension of the Lower Valley Pathway to include a bicycle lane that goes from 16th Street to Yakima Valley Highway.

Not all who attended Monday's meeting were in favor of the city pursuing a skate park in tight budget times. Carol Stone expressed reservations about having an unsupervised skate park at SunnyView Park, which is centrally located between Sunnyside and Grandview. Stone also didn't want the city to be held liable for any injuries that may occur. Stone pointed out to the Council there are a lot of park areas that need maintenance now. Stone didn't think the city should use $10,000 in matching funds for a $66,500 grant from the Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation (IAC) for the skate park.

Councilman Jim Restucci, though, was very much in favor of using city money to help fund a skate park project. Restucci said all of the skate parks he has visited have been well maintained and supervised. Restucci said the youth of the area want a skate park.

"If we are going to build a skate park, it will get a lot of use," said Restucci. "That is what I am looking for."

City Manager Bob Stockwell pointed out to Stone the comprehensive plan serves as a guideline for the city. He said it doesn't necessarily mean the city is going to be spending any money right away. Stockwell said approving the plan allows for the parks department to apply for different funding.

Don Outhet said he wanted to see the city work more on maintaining parks in town, rather than SunnyView Park. Outhet told Council he would rather see the money the city plans to use for funding the skate park put to better use.

Ellen Bird disagreed with Stone and Outhet. Bird, who serves on the parks and recreation committee, said the city knew it wasn't going to make money on SunnyView Park. She believes a skate park will draw people to SunnyView Park.

Councilman Bruce Ricks came up with the idea of moving the skate park to South Hill Park. Ricks said the city could utilize the space where the four tennis courts are currently located for the skate park. Ricks added the tennis courts aren't well utilized at South Hill Park. Ricks said it would cost the city much more money to upgrade the tennis courts than to use the space for a skate park.

"They are in major disrepair," said Ricks.

Ricks said with the skate park being located at South Hill Park, the area would be well supervised. Ricks also suggested even offering a first aid station at the newly constructed community center.

Councilwoman Bengie Aguilar wasn't as quick to move the location of the skate park. Aguilar said she has been approached in the past year by several people who are wondering when the tennis courts are going to be repaired. Aguilar said the courts might be under-utilized because they are in need of repair. Aguilar said she would like to see a survey go out to residents asking about what the city should do with the tennis courts.

Stockwell agreed with Ricks on the location of the skate park.

"South Hill Park would be an ideal location," said Stockwell.

Stockwell said the tennis courts would have to be completely redone. He added that if the city utilizes that area a skate park could be constructed quicker than the city would be able to repair the tennis courts. Stockwell also said it would be far easier for younger people in the community to get out to South Hill Park to skate than it would for them to travel to SunnyView Park.

Jetter said the city could run into some problems with its grant application to the IAC if it changed locations for the skate park. Jetter said the wheels have already been set into motion for the grant application, which identifies SunnyView Park as the location for the skate park. She wasn't sure if the IAC would allow her to change the location of the skate park in the grant application without disqualifying it all together.

Council asked Jetter to look into the matter. Council approved the parks and recreation comprehensive plan, but left the location of the skate park void pending further examination.

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