WILMETTE PARK DISTRICT

MINUTES OF A MEETING OF THE WILMETTE PARK DISTRICT

BOARD OF PARK COMMISSIONERS SITTING AS A COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE

HELD IN THE COUNCIL ROOM OF WILMETTE VILLAGE HALL
MONDAY, JULY 18, 2005
_____________________________________________________________________

 

Written notice of said meeting was given to the Commissioners and the Wilmette Life in accordance with the Wilmette Park District Code, Section 2103, and Section 2.02 of the Open Meetings Act.

President Miller called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.

PRESENT: President David Miller, Commissioners Jim Brault, Diana Cohen, Jim Crowley (departed at 8:00 p.m.), Richard Marcus, Dennis O’Malley, Henry Wolff, Director Terry Porter

VISITORS: See attached.

INTRODUCTORY REMARKS:

President Miller welcomed those in attendance.  He noted that tonight’s meeting is the second and final hearing of the Committee of the Whole regarding the issue of whether or not the Park District will build a skate park, and if so, where the facility will be located.  He stated that after all public comment has been taken, the Board will hold discussion on what they have heard at this meeting and at the June 27th hearing, and will informally share their thoughts.  If more issues and/or questions are raised, staff will be directed to investigate and to report back to the Board.  It is anticipated that the Board will hold a formal discussion and vote on the issue at the August 22, 2005 Regular Board Meeting.

President Miller acknowledged the following:

CORRESPONDENCE NOT IN FAVOR OF SKATE PARK

Listening Post Comment received June 25, 2005 from Mrs. Katz, 2717 Birchwood

E-mail dated June 28, 2005  from Patricia and John Gillard, 809 Lake Ave.

E-mail dated June 28, 2005 from Barbara Kerr, 2601 Marian Lane

E-mail dated June 29, 2005 from Elmer Walsh, Jr. 

Letter dated July 1, 2005 from Barbara Labanz & Donald R. Scherer, 2616 Laurel Lane

E-mail dated July 5,  2005 from Thomas Bridges

E-mail dated July 6, 2005 from Bob Kafkis, 1130 Manor

E-mail dated  July 8, 2005 from Ann Rutherford

E-mail dated July 10, 2005 from Robert Sirott

E-mail dated July 15, 2005 from Patrice Oster, 439 Cove Lane

Letter dated July 18, 2005 from Peggy Nelson, 2244 Beechwood

CORRESPONDENCE IN FAVOR OF SKATE PARK

Listening Post Comment received June 25, 2005 from Jackie Nussbaum, 2547 Laurel Lane

E-mail dated July 1, 2005 from Sherry Oberlin

E-mail dated July 1, 2005 from Joel Rosenthal

E-mails dated July 2, 2005 from Susan Witz, 108 17th Street with article from New York Times

E-mail dated July 4, 2005 from Jeffrey P Hansen, 924 Seneca Road

Letter dated July 9, 2005 from Mr. and Mrs. Richard Swedberg, 815 Locust Road

E-mail dated July 11, 2005 from Sheila Gideon, 2450 Cardinal Lane (prefers Hibbard Park)

E-mail dated July 11, 2005 from Mark Litin  with copy of letter sent to Wilmette Life

E-mail dated July 13, 2005 from Lucille Prudden

E-mail dated July 17, 2005 from Linda K. Stremmel

Letter dated July 18, 2005 from Pat Grossmann, 3018 Gregory  (not at Hibbard Park)

President Miller reported that the Board had received a letter from Alan Dolinko, President of School District #39, and Superintendent McGee stating that they have no opinion on whether or not the Park District should build a skate park.  However, the School District would prefer a location other than Community Playfield because it is felt that a skate park near the Junior High would be a distraction to the children and could impede learning.

Commissioner Cohen reported that she had attended the Festival of the Arts at Hibbard Park over the previous weekend and had been approached by three people who expressed concerns that a skate park located at Hibbard Park would have a negative impact on the annual art show.

DIRECTOR’S REPORT:

President Miller asked Director Porter to respond to a number of questions which were raised at the June 27th hearing. 

Director Porter stated that over the past 20 to 30 years, there have been requests that the Park District provide a skate park.  The Park Board has agreed during the past year to investigate the feasibility of construction of a skate park and to proceed with public hearings. He noted that the Board had held discussion regarding the recommendations of the consultant who looked at all the parks designated by the District to be feasible locations.  One of the criteria used for assessing the feasibility of the locations was that the park had to be over four acres in size and that a skate park would take up no more than ten percent of the acreage.  After studying the consultant’s report, the Board narrowed down the possible locations of a skate park to two parks – Community Playfield and Hibbard Park.  Using drawings of Community Playfield and Hibbard Park, Director Porter pointed out where a skate park might be located at each site.

Director Porter explained that at the last public hearing and from communication and correspondence which has been received from the community, questions and concerns regarding the skate park seem to fall into four distinct categories:  liability; vandalism; inappropriate behavior, and noise.

With regard to the liability issues, Director Porter noted that the Park District participates in a risk management cooperative consisting of 151 park districts and forest preserves.  The Park District Risk Management Agency (PDRMA), currently has approximately 50 members operating some type of skateboard/in-line skating facility.  He explained that PDRMA handles only park districts and forest preserves so they are well aware of the types of activities offered by park districts.  PDRMA reports that while it is true that there are certain risks inherent in skateboarding and in-line skating, these risks do not appear to create a greater number of claims than other park district activities.  The Wilmette Park District alone offers many activities which could be considered as high risk activities, including such programs as tackle football, ice skating, diving, gymnastics, lacrosse, etc.  Other park districts offer higher risk activities such as rock climbing.  PDRMA routinely covers these types of activities and works with all the member agencies in looking at ways of reducing risk through appropriate signage, use of waiver forms, and facility inspection checklists.

Director Porter stated that PDRMA reports that while there have been some injuries due to skateboarding activities, there has not been a significant number of liability claims related to the operation of skate parks.  He explained that there would be no increase in insurance premiums if the Park District were to choose to operate a skate park because the PDRMA funding mechanism is based on the operating expense of the district exclusive of capital expenditures.

Director Porter summarized the liability concerns by stating that the Park District’s risk management agency’s position is that a well maintained skate park with appropriate signage should not present a liability.

Director Porter noted that many residents had expressed concerns about vandalism at a skate park facility.  He stated that a number of neighboring communities have skate board/in-line skating facilities, such as Glenview, which has two, Winnetka, Glencoe, Highland Park, and Deerfield in addition to a number of communities in the west and northwest suburbs. Director Porter explained that he contacted his colleagues in many of these communities, and everyone indicated that there has not been a significant increase in vandalism as a result of the construction and operation of a skate park.  While some communities may report some isolated incidents, vandalism does not appear to be a common, ongoing problem. He stated that the directors of these agencies have indicated that when construction of a skate park is planned, the user group is consulted in design and operation, and it is made clear to teens and preteens that with the privilege of having a skate park comes the responsibility to be good stewards of the facility which they will be enjoying. Director Porter added that generally, the comments on the risk from the colleagues that he consulted were that skate parks pose no additional vandalism problem, and do provide a great service for an underserved segment of the community.

With regard to concerns about inappropriate behavior, Director Porter reported that he  had contacted the Wilmette Police Department and asked if they would poll with neighboring communities’ police departments to see if there has been an increase in inappropriate behavior due to the presence of a skate park in their communities. He stated that from the reports he received, there doesn’t appear to be any link between a skate park and inappropriate behavior such as gang activity, drug trafficking, or bullying.
Director Porter noted that at the last hearing, a number of residents expressed concern about the noise that would be generated from a skate park.  He stated that noise is an issue that would have to be dealt with in the design process and that modern day skate parks and equipment can reduce the noise generated by these types of facilities.  Director Porter added that appropriate location, equipment, and landscape buffers would certainly be addressed as part of any skate park design.

Director Porter pointed out that if the Board approves construction of a skate park, the Park District will have to go through zoning and many of these issues will be addressed again during the process.

PUBLIC COMMENT:

The following people spoke against construction of a skate park or against a particular location for a skate park, or felt more information was needed to make a judgment.

Hugh Zick, 2451 Cardinal Lane
George Sullivan, 2436 Cardinal Lane
Sorelle Baker, 2701 Birchwood Ave.
Sandy Krebs, 2738 Birchwood Ave.
George Karagas, 319 Kilpatrick
Adam Merrill, 2547 Marian Lane
Marjorie Graham, Wilmette Arts Guild
Romayne Fargo, 2606 Marian Lane
Dan Ryan, 2615 Laurel Lane
Ellen Goldsmith, 2211 Washington
Richard Homer, 2447 Cardinal Lane
Morris Liebling, 3006 Hill Lane
John Hager, 2525 Marian Lane
Tony Reynes, 2609 Marian Lane
Marilyn Malles, 1330 Sheridan Road

There were concerns expressed about the cost to the taxpayer for a facility that would be targeted to a relatively small user group.  There were several objections to using Community Playfield due to its already heavy use for soccer, baseball, etc. It was also noted that there was already too much traffic in the neighborhood and a skate park would add not only to traffic problems, but also would increase parking problems.  There were also objections to locating a skate park at Hibbard Park because of proximity to neighboring residences and the possible negative impact on the Festival of the Arts which is held annually at Hibbard Park.  One resident noted that 74 homes around Community Playfield would be impacted whereas there are only five residences around Hibbard Park which would be affected by a skate park.  It was suggested that if the Board felt that a skate park should be constructed, Gillson Park or West Park would be the best choices.

A resident commented that even though Director Porter had discussed the liability issue and explained that the Park District’s insurance rates would not be impacted by a skate park, if there was one claim, the insurance rates would skyrocket.  A resident quoted statistics from an article about the dangers and risks of skateboarding and the serious injuries that could be incurred.

The issue of noise was also touched upon with regard to the impact a skate park would have on the neighbors in the area.  Concerns about the decibel levels were noted.

One resident commented that he had visited a number of skate parks in the area and from what he had observed, there were very few users.  

There were objections that there was no specific design for the community to see. A suggestion was made that the Park Board conduct more public hearings and provide a replica of what a skate park would look like prior to making a decision. There was a suggestion that the community be allowed to vote on the issue. The Board was also cautioned to work with certified professionals and make sure that the all parties concerned in design and construction have appropriate insurance.

The following people spoke in favor of construction of a skate park in Wilmette.

Brian Day,  1502 Walnut Avenue
Henry Yaeger, 1513 Maple Ave.
Chris Favaro, 629 Prairie
Mark and Trent Weyemuler, 208 Lawndale
Mark Litin, 1114 Lake Avenue
Claudia Rosen, 301 Wilshire
Bill Maloney, 311 Michigan
Spencer Carey, 929 Pinecrest Lane
Grant Stern,  1125 Elmwood
Marilyn Reddy, 627 11th Street
Larry Goldstein, 136 Maple
Kathleen O’Laughlin, 341 Greenleaf
Gideon Rosen,  301 Wilshire Drive
Chuck Ziegler, 825 Greenleaf
Marla Goldstein, 136 Maple
Graham Crosh, 2339 Thornwood
Joel Rosenthal, 2450 Iroquois
Clair Crosh, 2339 Thornwood
Terry Rosenthal, 2450 Iroquois
Andrew Spillers, 719 Park
Natalie Brand, 915 Ashland
Clint Cox, 730 Locust

It was noted that the skateboarding/in line skating community in Wilmette is very underserved.  There is no safe place for skateboarders to enjoy what has become a very popular sport within the last several years.  There were also statements to the fact that the skateboarders are either children of taxpaying families or are taxpayers themselves who contribute toward the upkeep of parks which offer baseball, soccer, etc. as well as passive use.  The recent purchase of the Mallinckrodt property was cited as an example of taxpayer dollars being expended for a park which would not necessarily serve the entire community.  The approximate cost per Wilmette taxpayer was broken down and after factoring in the cost of the facility, the number of taxpayers, and the number of years it would serve the community, the cost was estimated to be negligible. 

The Director of Emergency Services at St. Francis Hospital testified that he has not seen any significant injuries from skateboarding in the emergency room.  There are more injuries resulting from other sports such as football, soccer, etc.  Comments were also made regarding the fact that the majority of skateboarders are responsible with regard to wearing proper safety equipment and that any skate park would be designed professionally with safety features and the appropriate signage.  It was felt that actually the skate park would offer a safer alternative for skateboarders and in line skaters than is available in Wilmette at the present time.

It was noted that while there are a number of skate parks in neighboring communities, it is not convenient for many of the Wilmette skateboarders to get to these locations.

Comments were also heard refuting the problems with noise, vandalism, and inappropriate behavior.  It was noted that the new skate park facilities are designed to minimize noise and that for the most part, the skateboarding community is interested in having a facility and maintaining it well for their benefit and enjoyment.  There is no evidence that such a facility attracts a bad element or causes problems in any community.

President Miller thanked all those who spoke and asked the Board members for their comments.

Commissioner Wolff stated that he has gone back and forth on this issue.  He feels it would be much easier to decide if it was a question of using West Park of Gillson Park as a location.  He would like to see a skate park in Wilmette, however, he definitely is not in favor of the Community Playfield location.  He noted that Community Playfield is already an overused facility with soccer and baseball games and that the School District is not in favor of placing a skate park at that facility.   Commissioner Wolff stated that he might not be averse to putting a skate park at Hibbard Park, but he has some misgivings about the noise factor for the neighborhood.

Commissioner Marcus stated that he is definitely in favor of the Park District providing a skate park.  He commended the young people for their excellent work in lobbying the Park District for a skate park and noted that it is time to make a decision as this issue has been discussed for years and at this point, enough research has been done.  Commissioner Marcus stated that he is not opposed to Community Playfield as the location for a skate park.  He feels that the very name – Community Playfield – implies that this is a park for all types of activities for the community.  He does not necessarily agree with the School District that having a skate park near the Junior High would have a negative impact on the educational process, and he feels that there is room for further discussion.  He also noted that the residences near Community Playfield are further away from where a skate park would be located than the homes at Hibbard Park.   Commissioner Marcus stated that West Park is a location which would be more convenient for Glenview users than Wilmette skateboarders.

Commissioner O’Malley stated that the Park District is in business to provide recreation and that skateboarding is a legitimate sport. He noted that the input received from the public has been extremely valuable to him.   However, he does have concerns about the cost of the facility and safety issues.   Commissioner O’Malley added that he feels that Community Playfield may be a viable location, but there are congestion issues because the park is used for so many different activities.  He also stated that it would be important that the park is closed at night

Commissioner Cohen noted that skateboarding is one of the fastest growing sports in the country, and that she liked the idea of providing a facility for those who wished to participate in a “personal” sport.  She complimented all the young people who came out and expressed their support for a skate park to the Park Board.  Commissioner Cohen stated that after hearing the facts about liability risks, etc., she was no longer concerned about the Park District’s insurance premiums and that she favored Hibbard Park as a location, partly due to its proximity to the Community Recreation Center.

Commissioner Brault stated that he had supported the construction of a skate park during his recent election campaign for the Park Board with a $250,000 limit on construction costs.  He added that he maintains that position.  He noted that the design and management of the facility are important factors and that he favors Hibbard Park over Community Playfield which is already heavily used.  He stated that it is important to work closely with the designers and construction people to put a park in place that would create the least disruption to the neighborhood.

President Miller stated that this has been an issue that has repeatedly discussed for at least 20 years, but was never seriously considered until a large group had come forward to ask the Park District to provide a skate park.  He stated that this is a user group, consisting mostly of pre teen and teen age youth, who have not been well served over the years.  The Wilmette Park District has provided facilities for many other sports and activities and since skateboarding is a fast growing and popular sport, it is now time to provide an appropriate facility in the community.  President Miller estimated that from what he has learned recently, about 150 young people would use the skate park.  He stated he would like to find a location that would not be objectionable to anyone, but that neither West Park or Gillson Park would be viable locations.  He noted the School District’s concerns regarding Community Playfield, and stated that further investigation would be needed regarding that location.

President Miller again thanked everyone who had written and/or participated in the public hearings.  He noted again that the August Regular Board Meeting had been rescheduled to August 22nd and it is anticipated that there will be a vote on the skate park issue at that time.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:11 p.m.

MINUTES APPROVED AUGUST 22, 2005