Skateboarders executed toeflips off the curb in front of city hall five minutes before the meeting, while a BMX rider parked his bike in the front entry. About 35 young people crowded the Storm Lake City Council chambers last night to ask the city to fulfill a promise to build a skate park.
Sarah Stephens spoke on behalf of "the skateboarders of the Storm Lake community," saying that skating and BMX riding has become a $36 billion recreation industry. "Kids are finding more to do than sit in front of the TV," she told the council.
Building a skatepark in Storm Lake would help the young people learn responsibility, and give them a place to get away from potential influence of drugs - and it would generate revenue for the city by attracting people in to skate and spectate, she said.
Mayor Jon Kruse told the group that the city will form a committee to look into a project, headed by City Development Director Mike Wilson. The goal will be to complete a tentative park plan and consider locations by mid-year. More than a dozen of the young skaters signed up to serve on a committee, and Wilson said the first meetings could begin within a few weeks.
According to Kruse, the city currently projects to have no funding for a skatepark until 2012-13.
The group said they had already contacted a few bands about the possibility of doing fundraiser concerts this summer, and that they don't expect the city to pay for the whole project.
Anything the young people can raise would move up the date of park construction, Kruse said.
Some of the skaters suggested that the city choose a temporary spot to allow skating until a park is built, and said they are often chased away from anywhere they skate.
Kruse responded that while the council is aware of the situation, police are "looking out for your interests as well as the community's."
Adult community member Sherise Gibson said that she had voted for Project AWAYSIS funding because she thought it would include an initially-promised skatepark. Lowell Fields complemented the teenagers for showing up before the council to express their needs, and encouraged them to continue community involvement and to vote when they are older. "This is how local government is done," he said.
One member of the audience asked if some of the revenue from King's Pointe resort could be parlayed into a skate park project, as was told that it could not.
Mayor Kruse said he is aware that the council's reaction was not entirely what the young people wanted to hear, but that the financial realities and the need to complete existing portions of the AWAYSIS project like the campground and tourist cabins must be realized.
"It will get done," City Administrator Patti Moore told the young people, who have taken the initiative to gather some plans from other parks developed around the country. They feel the project could be done for around $300,000.
"When I was younger I did a lot of skating. I didn't happen to be the type of kid who went in for a lot of school stuff. This is what gave me a positive thing to do and kept me off drugs," said Shawn Steemke, one of the organizers of the petition that led to the city council request.