News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Skate park property may be sold

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

Volunteers developing a skate park in Mill City after recent disaster delays are facing a new obstacle – the city may sell the property slated for the project.

During the Feb. 28 meeting of the Mill City City Council, supporters of Santiam Kids and Tourism Effort (SKATE) urged officials to rethink selling the lot in question to the Santiam Canyon School District.

Mayor Tim Kirsch said the city has not committed to a sale but is obligated to consider a serious offer and would consult SKATE before making a decision. He said funds from a sale could go toward completion of the skatepark at a different location, such as Kimmel Park.

“I cannot guarantee what is going to shake out at this time,” said Kirsch. “We want to see a skate park, too, though.”

SKATE organizers said this would upend years of planning and development, and jeopardize access to funding available only for parks that are shovel-ready.

“Getting a location was the hardest process, the hardest thing to come to terms with in getting grant-eligible,” said SKATE member Thorin Thacker. “ … You can’t go after a grant unless we have approval – an approved site, and an approved plan.”

SKATE was scheduled to give an update to the council on revitalized efforts after the project was placed on hold in 2020 due to the pandemic and wildfires. The group started gathering again in October of 2022.

They have scheduled a community meeting for March 9 at 7 p.m. at Stewart’s Hall to update the public on fundraising and project goals.

Volunteers have been attempting to build a skatepark in Mill City since organizing in 2005. Initial efforts to construct the facility at Kimmel Park were stalled when City Hall burned down in 2010.

Volunteers regrouped and in 2014 formed SKATE, which raised more than $44,000 between community donations and city support. The city dedicated the site of the former fire hall at SW Second Avenue and Cedar Street to the project, and SKATE began working with Dreamland Skateparks of Lincoln City to develop the site.

Thacker said Feb. 28 the site was ideal because it was central to downtown, allowing students at nearby schools easy access and enabling regular patrols by law enforcement. He also said the Mill City Odd Fellows are planning to develop Stewart’s Hall next door as a community center, further establishing the location as a site for students to gather.

Thacker reminded the council that the city signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with SKATE dedicating the Cedar Street site as a skatepark. Though an MOU is not legally binding, Thacker said it could be “really messy” if the city backed out.

With site-specific plans from Dreamland, SKATE began seeking regulatory approval, and in late 2019 received an initial go-ahead from the Mill City Planning Commission. They hoped to break ground in 2020, but pandemic lockdowns that March and the fires that September obligated the city to prioritize recovery efforts over other projects.

After regrouping last October, SKATE set a goal of breaking ground by 2024, with a fundraising target of $200,000. Danyel Scott, co-owner of Dreamland Skateparks, who is volunteering her time for the project, told the council that SKATE is hoping to reconnect with community members who committed support in the past.

“There’s a lot of surrounding community members coming to this,” said Scott, who encouraged residents to attend the March 9 meeting.

Kirsch said he appreciates the effort SKATE volunteers have undertaken and said it is clear they remain dedicated to the project. He said he was not prepared that night to have a detailed discussion, given the many new elements of the project that were shared, and said he would work with the Planning Commission to address unanswered questions.

A representative of SCSD could not be reached for comment prior to deadline.

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