Assistant City Manager Chelsea Starner (at left by the easel paper pad), Grindline Skateparks CEO Matt Fluegge (sitting at table with laptop) and others listen to design suggestions from a meeting attendee Wednesday evening at City Hall. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Several folks in the room Wednesday evening for a public meeting on a new Philomath skate park design spoke with enthusiasm about the possibilities — themes based on local features, obstacles and elements, locations and even the prospect of creating an attraction that will bring in visitors as an all-wheels destination.

“I think it was a good turnout for sure,” Assistant City Manager Chelsea Starner said following the meeting at City Hall. “We got some really good feedback and I thought they brought some really valid information.”

Through money set aside for a feasibility study, design and development of the skate park — $18,000 from an Oregon Parks and Recreation Department grant and $12,000 out of the city budget — the presentation featured Matt Fluegge, chief executive officer of Seattle-based Grindline Skateparks.

Fluegge started the meeting with background on his company, design philosophy and the construction process while showing examples of projects that had been completed around the country.

Everyone in the room then had an opportunity to share their ideas and comments. Among those were suggestions for features to include and themes to be worked into the design. Starner said the Park Advisory Board will discuss concepts and survey results at its Aug. 1 meeting and at some point in the future, the conversation will move on to the City Council.

A local group, “Build A Better Skatepark,” urged the city to consider replacing the current skate park, which dates back to 2000 and faced criticism from the beginning for its design. Critics have cited a lack of safe transitions between features, which includes obstacles considered by many to be too steep.

The group also wants to see the skatepark become a “sports action park” that would be welcoming to rollerbladers, bikes and scooters.

One person in attendance arrived at the meeting riding a skateboard. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The design meeting had 16 people in the room, although that number included city personnel, a city councilor, a handful of current and former Park Advisory Board members, Grindline’s representative and the media. But there were skate park enthusiasts among those in attendance — a few from Corvallis — that didn’t shy away from sharing their ideas and opinions — a component of the process that Starner said is valuable.

Starner said various sites are under consideration for the location of the skate park with it not being a given it will be in the same spot at Philomath City Park. However, based on conversations and factors on accessibility to the age of typical users, it appears that there is a lean toward keeping in the same place.

“A park has more existing amenities and with its proximity to the schools, there are a lot of reasons that it (City Park) is a good site,” Starner said. “I think a lot of the community members support it being there, too, so yeah, definitely it’s a top contender at this point.”

A possibility could be that the skate park is moved to a different location within Philomath City Park, although factors like water tables and land constraints come into play. The new skate park might also be bigger than its current size, estimated to be around 3,500 square feet. The price tag will be a major factor in that decision.

A rundown of suggestions that came up during the meeting. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The involvement of Grindline at this stage of the process is limited to feasibility, design and development and doesn’t necessarily mean the company will also handle future construction. Still, it seems unlikely that Grindline would not be involved.

Starner said state procurement rules will force the city to go through the public bidding process again for building the skate park because the project had to move forward in stages instead of all at once.

“But obviously, Grindline has a little bit of the advantage because we’re not going to want to pay another company … it’s just unfortunate because it’s just the way that this project had to work,” she said. “It would’ve been more ideal if we could’ve put it all together but with grants and things, you can’t always (do that).”

Starner expressed the hope that the project will be ready to pursue an Oregon Parks and Recreation Department grant, which will begin a new grant cycle Jan. 9. The state agency’s Local Government Grant Program targets projects limited to public outdoor park and recreation areas and facilities.

Based on Philomath’s population (between 5,000 and 25,000), it appears that a 40% match would be required.

“It really depends on what the project cost ends up as … whether we have enough money budgeted that we can put toward the project and how much fundraising we are going to have to do,” Starner said when asked about the timeline. “But it can take a long time to get those grants so we’ll go through that process.”

After getting answers on feasibility, narrowing down sites and considering community input, the process will move to conceptual design. At that point, cost estimates can be determined and once financial-related questions are answered, the project can progress into permitting and construction.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.