To skate or not to skate — city council decides

“Get the hell off my property.”

Those are words some local skateboarders have heard numerous times.

They have been chased and sworn at by local business owners. Ordinances have been passed by the city council to remove them from downtown streets and sidewalks.

But the stereotypes people have of them as destructive punks are not true, the skateboarders say.

Now, some moves are being made to validate their alternative sport.

The Bremerton City Council will have an opportunity to approve a grant worth $75,000 at their weekly meeting this Wednesday for a skatepark to be built in Eastpark, next to the YMCA and the Bremerton Ice Arena.

It will be the first large-scale facility of its kind ever created in the city.

In 1996, a smaller scale park was built on the same location the new one is slated for.

Additionally at the meeting, the council can approve an application to the Interagency for Outdoor Recreation for a Youth Athletic Facilities grant of $150,000.

Mayor Bozeman has already expressed his full committment to complete the project by the end of 2004.

“To begin with, skateboarding is a real sport these days,” said Council Member Will Maupin. “It’s as valid a thing for us to provide a skatepark as it is for us to provide a basketball court.”

Maupin was part of the committee that made the recommendation that $75,000 of the city’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds be reserved to create a skatepark.

CDGB federal funds are provided to cities to develop property in economic development projects, as well as public service efforts such as crime prevention, education and employment, to name a few.

This year, there were 24 different applications for different groups and projects throughout the city.

The CDGB committee rates each project on criteria such as whether it fits in with the city’s comprehensive plan, appropriately addresses a major need in the city, how much it will cost, and whether or not it solves a problem for low income residents.

Out of all the capital improvement projects, the skateboard park was voted third highest in priority.

In all, $590,000 CDBG funds will be distributed for capital projects like the skatepark. Winning first priority status is the Kitsap Health District, which applied for money to help construction and relocation costs from its current Austin Drive location to the government center once it is built.

Second priority was awarded to the city of Bremerton Public Works department for the construction of 15 wheelchair ramps throughout the city.

The local skategroup that has been advocating for the park, Bremerton Skaters and Supporters United (BSSU), gave a multimedia presentation to the CDBG committee.

“They made the best presentation of any group,” Maupin said. “They were very well prepared. They addressed the rating criteria very well.”

Last March, students and skateboard enthusiasts Westin Williams and Jesse Dixon began working with Bremerton Junior High teacher Lisa Gordon to start the skateboarding group. Since that time, Gordon has taken the kids on field trips to County — including the one in Port Orchard and Kingston — and she has showed up to watch them skate.

The $150,000 Youth Athletic Facilities grant requires an equal match, so BSSU is working on raising the rest through fund-raisers and other grants.

The CDBG grant will offer $75,000. The Bremerton Central Lions Charitable Foundation committed $25,000 on June 13. The group is seeking a Tony Hawk Foundation grant of $25,000 — named after the famous American skateboarder — and the final $25,000 may come from a combination of fund-raising and further grant money.

“It’s very exciting,” said Lisa Gordon, who now teaches economics and history at Bremerton High School.

“I’m happy that the kids’ work has paid off. They have established the need and they have learned to be advocates for themselves.”

Gordon has seen many transformations in the students who have helped advocate and present information on the skatepark.

One is a sophomore at Bremerton High, 15-year-old Ian McDowell.

“He was a quiet student,” said Gordon. “Now he has taken his role as an advocate quite seriously.

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