VISTA, CA – Vista won’t be replacing its skatepark any time soon, City Council members decided Tuesday when they axed a proposal to put the park in a proposed stormwater detention basin near South Santa Fe Avenue and Monte Vista Drive.
The decision was a blow to local skateboarders, who have been without a park since August 2008, when the previous skatepark was closed to make room for Vista’s new downtown Civic Center.
“The old skatepark was very popular and very used —- now there’s no place for kids to go,” skateboard enthusiast John Blank told council members.
“Skateboarding is not a crime,” he added. “It’s an accepted alternative to team sports. We need to find the money, find the place and find the understanding to make this happen.”
However, neighbors of the proposed stormwater basin cheered the council’s decision. The previous skatepark was hidden by trees and plagued by vandalism, fights and after-hours use, and residents said those problems would have persisted in the new location.
“This site is going to be hidden, too,” said Alta Vista Drive resident Bruce Shift, who argued against the project. “I agree skaters need a place to go, but it needs to be in one of our public parks.”
Shift said he had gathered about 100 signatures over the weekend from area residents and business owners opposed to a skatepark in or near the proposed detention basin.
The basin is designed to shift the boundaries of the city’s 100-year flood plain and make the downtown corridor more appealing to investors. Combining the projects would have allowed the city to use redevelopment funds to build the skatepark, city staff said.
Now that the idea has been rejected, there’s no money in the general fund to build the park elsewhere, city officials said.
City Manager Rita Geldert said $500,000 that had previously been put aside for the project was used to balance the 2009-10 budget. The skatepark would probably cost between $750,000 and $1 million, she said.
Tuesday’s meeting was attended by a handful of people who live near the planned detention basin and about a dozen skateboarders.
Councilman Frank Lopez opposed building the skatepark in or near the proposed detention basin but said the council made a promise to build a new park when the old one was torn down.
“It’s a promise,” he said. “Now how do we put it in?”
Councilman Bob Campbell said there was “not a promise” made when the old park was torn down. The city said it would consider building a replacement, he said.
Campbell said the users of the old park created thousands of dollars in damage and were verbally abusive to nearby residents and people patrolling the skatepark.
“Unfortunately, there are kids that need (a park) and other kids who ruin it,” Councilwoman Judy Ritter said.
Miki Vuckovich, executive director of the Tony Hawk Foundation, a Vista nonprofit that advocates the creation of public skateparks, said Vista has about 5,000 skateboarders, and it’s in the city’s best interest to provide a place for them.
“There is a great need” in Vista, he said. “Essentially, without the skatepark, your city is the skatepark.”
Like Shift, most residents who spoke against the skatepark being placed in the detention basin were not against the idea of a skatepark elsewhere in the city.
“But the location is not in my backyard,” said Lindy Lane resident Tamara Sarracino.
City staff said they would continue to look into other potential sites for a skatepark in existing or future parks and would bring those ideas to the council when funding is available.
“I hope, because we decided not to continue in that location, that we don’t completely forget about this,” Lopez said.
Contact staff writer Cigi Ross at 760-901-4067.