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Protocol mixup delays skate park decision at Town Council

By Jack Chavez, Staff Writer

The proposed site for the skate park at Stephen Decatur Park would put it on the northern end of Tripoli Street, but there are concerns with the spot being too important for event overflow parking on summer weekends. JACK CHAVEZ/BAYSIDE GAZETTE

(May 25, 2023) Tony Weeg was excited Monday morning for what promised to be a landmark day, with Stephen Decatur Park set to be approved for the long-awaited town skate park at the mayor and Town Council meeting that evening.

“Tonight at council meeting, I’m going up to get (the park) approved as our skatepark location,” the executive director of We Heart Berlin said in a text.

But not long after that 7 p.m. meeting started, Weeg, as well as the residents who came to see the decision made, quickly realized that night wasn’t going to happen yet — and maybe not until at least July.

Weeg broke down the findings of California design company Spohn Ranch, which looked at several town parks and concluded that Decatur Park was the best location for a 14,000-square-foot skate park, edging out Henry Park mostly because of parking and ADA compliance needs.

What transpired next wasn’t a vote. After Councilman Jay Knerr suggested another location within Decatur Park that would not conflict with event overflow parking, Mayor Zack Tyndall focused on whether the proper procedure had been followed, with the matter to be voted on.

“Has the Parks Commission (made a recommendation) on the site rankings?” he asked.

Weeg said that the Parks Commission had been involved early and figured that was enough, and that it seemed that would leave the ball in the Town Council’s court.

But Tyndall said they needed the Parks Commission’s feedback.

“I’m not sure what the Parks Commission would do differently than the professionals on deciding this location,” Weeg replied. “That’s sort of why we lobbed it into their hands. If we were going to leave it up to the Parks Commission, we could have saved them $20,000.”

Councilmember Dean Burrell told Weeg that it wasn’t a matter of disposing of Spohn Ranch’s study, but simply following the proper procedure.

“The input that we get would be a responsibility of the Parks Commission, not meaning to belittle what you’re saying and the study that’s been completed. But the protocol is that for us to receive this information, it really needs to come through our Parks Commission just like we’ve done all our projects at our various parks.”

Councilmember Jack Orris said this was not how he remembered it being agreed that the process would go, and that the Parks Commission would review the study before the Town Council.

Town Administrator Mary Bohlen said it will when it meets next, but that meeting isn’t until July.

As of Tuesday afternoon, some talks about an emergency meeting had taken place but one hadn’t been confirmed, Weeg said.

“I hope (an emergency Parks Commission meeting is) more of a pointed conversation about the location other than mulling about the different locations that are available,” Councilmember Steve Green said.

“I do feel like this is procedurally handled correctly … If this group wasn’t going to take any action on this and to go before the Parks Commission, we could have avoided wasting people’s time, quite frankly.”

Orris asked Tyndall if he approved this agenda — implying that they could have taken it off the agenda and avoided We Heart Berlin showing up in force only to be told they must wait a little longer — to which Tyndall said he did.

“It’s been the same message every single time,” Tyndall said.

On Tuesday, Weeg disagreed with that statement.

“There was an oversight by them adding us onto the agenda without a clear path to a decision or at least clueing us into what was going to transpire,” he said in a text.

“I don’t think it was vindictive, I think it was just an oversight … I don’t know what else (the Parks Commission) or anyone else is going to do to add to the report but we shall see! Either way, it’s very known, and apparent that stormwater is going to be one of our main concerns, so we have to think about that first (and) always.”

Weeg also talked about location concerns, with some arising at the meeting regarding whether the skate park should be closer to the highway where it won’t take up open space often used for event overflow parking, and whether Heron or Henry parks would still ultimately be better locations.