WENATCHEE — A long-term plan that could make skateboarding as commonplace as swing sets and basketball in city parks was approved by the City Council on Thursday.
The “Skate Area System Master Plan” puts skate features on planners’ radar when upgrading existing city parks or building new parks.
Dave Erickson, the city’s parks and recreation director, said the plan identifies a network of public places throughout the city where “skate dots” or small, skatable features could be installed.
“It may be as simple as a bench with a rail on it that is designed so you can skate on it,” Erickson said.
Skate features will be added, space permitting, as parks are redeveloped, Erickson said.
Mike Leeds, founder of the nonprofit “Community for Wenatchee Valley Skateparks” has said that these kinds of features can transform the public perception of skateboarding from an outlaw to a mainstream sport.
“It definitely is a confirmation to me that the City Council and mayor fully realize that there’s a significant need,” said Leeds of the City Council’s endorsement. “They’re really starting to get it that skateboarders are great kids.”
The city estimates that 16 percent of Wenatchee 24-year-olds practice skateboarding. This translates to some 1,400 skateboarders within city limits and more than 4,000 in Chelan and Douglas counties combined.
Leeds says other cities, including Seattle, Tacoma and Portland, have been leaders in adding skateboard-friendly obstacles to their parks and cityscapes.
The master plan also sets criteria for placing skate facilities, including noise and space restrictions, and encourages education to teach the public about skateboarders, and boarders about proper “use and care of skate areas and behavior.”
It doesn’t earmark funds for the development or set timelines, but commits the city to helping Leeds’ group take the lead on fundraising efforts, policy making, design and construction.
The group is currently building a skate area at Kenroy Park in East Wenatchee.
Erickson said he began working on the plan about two years ago and polished it with Leeds’ help.
A long-term, $18 million plan is on track to overhaul Pioneer Park, home to the City Pool and city’s only public skate park, Erickson said.
The plan calls for a new and larger, professional-caliber skate area that could be used for regional competitions.
“If we don’t give skateboarders a safe, legal place to go, where are they supposed to go?” Leeds asked. “Skateboarding is definitely here to stay. If we do this right, families will come. Grandparents will come. It’s exciting.”
The city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board unanimously approved the plan April 20, Erickson said.
Councilmembers present Thursday also approved the plan unanimously. Councilmembers Jim Bailey, Karen Rutherford and Mark Kulaas were absent to attend an annual Association of Washington Cities meeting.