It’s a project that has been talked about for at least a decade, but after a public workshop Thursday night to explore the possibility of a skate park in Isla Vista’s Estero Park, it could be awhile before skaters see any ramps or halfpipes.
Of the several dozen people who gathered to contribute input, most liked the idea of a skate park. Just not in Estero Park. Or near their homes.
Noise seemed to be the dominant concern, and the idea of relocating the park to a downtown location was a key discussion point. In the end, the board unanimously voted to get more information on both sites and poll nearby downtown merchants. After that, the project will be brought back to the board for review.
Provisions for a skate park at Estero Park are included in several documents, including the Estero Master Plan, which was approved last year, and the Isla Vista Master Plan.
The Estero plan also provides for a basketball court, a soccer field and a community center. Carol Belser, general manager of the Isla Vista Recreation & Park District, said the cost of building the park would be about $595,000, but could run as high as $800,000, depending on the amenities, and would be paid for by Proposition 40 bond funds and fundraising.
Santa Barbara’s Skater’s Point park is about 14,000 square feet and cost about $830,000 to build. Its designer, Mike Taylor, is also working to design the Isla Vista park and has spent several hundred hours working on this project, all free of charge to the district. Taylor, who was at Thursday’s meeting, said he had been to hundreds of skate park workshops and has designed just as many parks.
“The ‘not in my backyard’ people show up every time, and they usually have the same concerns,” he said. “And after the skate park goes in, they usually flip-flop and they see the skate parks as an asset.
“The usage is through the roof,” he said of California’s many skate parks. “You live next to a park? Guess what? There’s going to be a soccer game, there’s going to be noise. Skateboarding noise isn’t any higher than the noise that’s already going on in the park.”
Belser cited a noise study during a presentation conducted by the Skatepark Association of America. Studies the organization conducted at a Santa Monica park showed noise levels of 64 to 78, noise the study said would equate to “a conversation, a dishwasher or daily traffic,’” she said.
Trish McKenna, a landlord at the nearby Silverwood Apartments, said the owner of the building was concerned he might lose renters because of noise complaints. “I am not against people who want to skate, but I think the downtown is a better location,” she said.
Both locations being considered, Estero Park and People’s and Perfect parks downtown, are owned by the park’s district, which helps considerably in the planning process, Belser said. “Location is key, and if we don’t get the location right, we’re going to be facing hurdles down the road,” she said.
Several people voiced concern that exploring a downtown location could set back the project even further. Taylor said it took 12 years to build the Santa Barbara skate park.
“My kids weren’t even born yet when we started, and they skated at the grand opening,” he said. “Don’t do that to these guys’ kids. They need it now.”
“I’ve been skating for many years, and have made many friends. That’s what these kids are looking for,” said Mike Pizano, a skater and Ellwood resident. “They need something here in Isla Vista.”
Board member Bruce Murdock said that of the 29 people who spoke, more people supported a downtown location, which he also agreed with. He suggested that the business tenants most likely would be in favor of the nearby park because it would increase foot traffic. “If I were a merchant, I’d say, ‘Yeah, bring it on,’” he said.
Board chairwoman Diane Conn said she liked Estero because it was in a location accessible to kids, and that “the noise is much less of an issue than people think.” But she also said People’s Park is one of the most underutilized downtown parks.
“I’m not going to commit to a downtown site if it’s going to set us back, but if we can move forward in the same time frame, then I’m leaning for the downtown location,” she said. “I think it will be a more useful site.”
The board plans to revisit the issue at its August meeting.