SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


What Happened to our SkatePark?
By Bobbie McCreary


July 28, 2010

Monday night I appeared in front of the Borough Assembly during public comments. I passed out a letter from Taira Wilhelm (Kayhi grad 2008) along with the recent Sitnews letters. I explained I would take only a little of their time as this was a special meeting to address the White Cliff building. I explained that day as I left the Youth Center building project on Park Avenue and drove up Schoenbar towards the bypass I passed by Walker Field. I looked at the fenced lot with a truck and a few pieces of miscellaneous equipment in it and said (out loud, actually!) WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO OUR SKATEPARK?

To the Assembly, I made the following points:

  • For THREE YEARS KYI has been in discussions with the Borough and other parties about building a skatepark
  • A private citizen has offered $75,000 towards building a covered skatepark
  • The Borough has $150,000 in their budget for a skatepark
  • The Little League has formally given their approval for use of Borough land to the North of Walker Field for this purpose

I asked the Assembly to read the letters I provided. Mayor Kiffer promised to provide us with an answer to this question.


Three years ago, as a Junior at Kayhi, Taira started a student-led movement to request a skatepark. The current, RUSTY steel half pipes outside the Parks and Rec building are dangerous (many kids have broken bones in their feet by falling on this unforgiving surface). This leaves venues such as the courthouse, the promenade, the docks, paved surfaces like around the Discovery Center and streets to skateboard on. All of which are posted "No Skateboards". Beginning three years ago groups of skateboarders met weekly to design a park with the assistance of a local small businessman who builds skateboards and the support of the Ketchikan Youth Initiatives Board. They collected over 600 signatures in support of building a skatepark. Many presentations and meetings included the Assembly, the Parks and Recreation Department, the Planning Department, the Borough Manager's office, Little League officers. During this time, I personally made three visits to the Juneau skatepark and met with the Youth Center manager there to inquire about how their park was established and how they overcame barriers that surfaced. I talked to skateboarders and skateboard supporters. Taira and others researched other skateboard parks in Sitka, Anchorage, Haines and other locations and uncovered problems that we can avoid and solutions that we can use. We developed information about grants available through the Tony Hawke foundation and the Charlotte Martin Foundation. We developed the relationship with the private donor to secure that support. All of this can easily be followed up by the Borough.

The results? Always some delay: We needed to get Little League support for use of some of the land adjacent to Walker Field that was promised to them long ago by the Borough for the development of an indoor training facility and other uses; this support came a few months ago, in February. The "swimming pool issues" took precedent It just kicked back and forth between departments and issues. We offered to help with fundraising and are told they already have the funds in place. (Although not enough to build a covered facility which we believe is mandatory.) Youth (and adults) go in front of the Assembly to plead for a park. Youth go in front of the Assembly to thank the Borough for their support when we hear the park has been approved. We offer to provide a design, a community oversight committee, help in securing community support to build the park. Same outcomes: 3 years of Delay, Delay, Delay.


  • It makes sense for this facility to be operated by the Borough although the community can help make it happen and help keep it going. Use of Borough land makes it affordable and the Borough has already committed funding and their insurance is in place.
  • The location adjacent to Walker Field is ideal because it is in proximity to the Parks and Rec department which makes it easy to maintain; there is continual traffic passing by making it more difficult to deal drugs and conduct other risky behavior. This is a location that easily supports youth activities including a skatepark.
  • We have recommended a webcam at the facility so skaters and their families can check out what is happening there. It can also feed into the Police Department.
  • We have recommended a skater user group to assist with a design that provides ultimate flexibility and serves the purpose well so skateboarders, inline-skaters, scooters will want to use the facility. We have no doubt that a properly constructed facility will be in constant use in this community.

Our community MUST support our youth by providing them with healthy activities and safe places to hang out. That alone will not resolve the problems we face from drugs and other social problems, but it can certainly help some young people fill their time constructively. Who knows if the next Shawn White (Olympic star snowboarder) might come from Ketchikan? Skateboarders often ask me what is happening with the skatepark. This is not rocket science. Everything is in place to move forward except someone to say, "GO." Let's get this done! Please email me at kyibobbie[AT] if you want to help.

Bobbie McCreary
Ketchikan, AK


Received July 28, 2010 - Published July 28, 2010


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