City officials still undecided on where to build skate park

At this last Monday night's meeting, the Sunnyside City Council moved forward with a grant application process to help fund the construction of a skate park at SunnyView Park.

Sunnyside Parks and Recreation Director Tom Byers is preparing a $66,500 grant application to the Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation. If the city is successful in obtaining the grant it will use the money to help construct a skate park at SunnyView Park.

But, the Council is not entirely sold on building the skate park at SunnyView, which the city took possession of from Yakima County recently.

At its May meeting, the Council suggested the possibility of moving the skate park to South Hill Park to complement the newly built community center and to make the facility easier for local youths to access. During the May meeting, it was determined staff would look into the possibility of moving the skate park to South Hill on the site of the battered tennis court facilities.

At this past Monday night's meeting, Byers informed Council that changing the site of the skate park could ruin the city's chances of obtaining the grant it is applying for. Byers also told Council the city would still have to place the tennis courts at some other location in town to ensure such a facility was in its system.

Byers is scheduled to make his presentation to the Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation on June 17. Byers said too much work has gone into the grant application to change things now. Byers did say there is the possibility the city could change the location of the skate park after it obtained the grant, but added he was saying that with no certainty. The parks director added that Sunnyside along with the City of Grandview and Yakima County have been working on developing the skate park for six years and he doesn't want to see the opportunity slip away.

Councilwoman Bengie Aguilar expressed a change of heart this past Monday, saying she talked with several youngsters the previous week and asked them where they want to see the skate park. She said the youngsters told her South Hill Park because it would be easier for them to get there.

Byers informed Council that it would more than likely have to return some of the money that was donated by Grandview if the site was switched to South Hill Park. Byers said money was donated by different entities in Grandview to help fund the skate park at Sunny View Park. Byers has already spoken with several people in Grandview who have said they want their money back if the skate park goes to South Hill Park.

Councilman Bruce Ricks suggested the city use money from other avenues to fund any shortfall with the skate park if people from Grandview want their money back.

Ellen Bird, who sits on the Sunnyside Parks and Recreation Commission, felt something needs to be done now to build the skate park.

"It is high time we put up or shut up," said Bird. "We have got the chance to get this money. Let's not ding around."

Councilman Don Vlieger said he could see both sides of the issue. Vleiger said he was working around a skate park a while ago and found them to be really noisy. He said the noise from a skate park would more than likely disrupt the residents living at South Hill Park. Vlieger said he felt the city was inviting problems by having the skate park at SunnyView Park, where there would be no supervision.

Councilman Jim Restucci wanted the input of Police Chief Ed Radder and Fire Chief Jim Stanton on their response times to both sites.

Radder said the police department wouldn't be able to oversee the skate park to ensure there are no problems. Radder said skate parks usually have few problems requiring the police. Stanton said his department's response time would double if the skate park was at SunnyView Park, compared to South Hill.

Responding to some concerns from council members about liability, Assistant City Manager/City Attorney Mark Kunkler said the city can only be held liable if officials knew there was a problem and did nothing to fix it.

City Manager Bob Stockwell said the key to liability is ensuring something is built properly and well maintained. Stockwell, who has dealt with skate park issues in other communities he has worked in, said he has found such facilities to be a valuable asset to the area.

Mayor Pro-tem Mike Farmer was a bit distressed about hearing the news that people from Grandview would want back the money they donated to the skate park if it was moved to South Hill Park. Farmer said he felt the skate park would receive much more use if it was in town, compared to being out in the middle of the two area communities.

The possibility exists that if Sunnyside is successful in landing the $66,500 grant, it may try to switch sites to South Hill Park.


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