County considers options for skate park

OKEECHOBEE — Repairing or replacing the 20-year-old skate park near the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office was a topic of discussion at the Sept. 26 meeting of the Okeechobee County Board of Commissioners.

Recreation Department Director Albie Scoggins said the county staff had a conference call with a skate park design company on Aug. 22.

He said he asked the design company whether it would be possible to frame and pour existing modules and reduce the maintenance.

“It’s not recommended to frame and pour any of the modular components,” he explained.

“We’re looking at a 20-year-old skate park,” he said. “It probably would be in our best interest to consider doing a redesign and complete renovation.”

Okeechobee skate park repairs are under discussion.

If the county decides to go ahead with a new park, the design company would host a workshop to tailor the park to the desires of local skaters.

Some skaters like to skate on traditional skate park elements such as ramps; others like “street” elements, he explained.

“They recommend incorporating the two types of elements in one park,” Mr. Scoggins said.

Mr. Scoggins said the design company recommended demolishing the existing park and building a new skate park from scratch. Estimated cost would be about $410,000.

“They feel those features will be utilizable for the next 20 years and also draw and attract other skaters from the Treasure Coast,” Mr. Scoggins said.

“Why would you rebuild the same thing that we’ve had for 20 years?”

He recommended building a new facility that would not be as maintenance-intensive.

“We would like to create something that is not only an attraction for the county but also a long-term usable facility that the kids currently can enjoy and their kids, as well,” he said.

“I know $410,000 sounds like a large number,” Mr. Scoggins continued. He suggested the county may get part of the financing from Florida Recreational Assistance Grant matching funds.

“Right now there is no admission, no supervision and no one to make sure the kids wear helmets,” said Commissioner Bryant Culpepper.

He said that since the skate park has been closed, due to its poor condition, the older kids have been tearing up the Wooden Jungle Playground, which was designed for the little ones.

“The older kids are tearing up the Wooden Jungle because they are too heavy, especially the slides,” he said.

He said a top-quality skateboard park could also be used for roller skates and BMX bikes.

“The number one call I get is, why don’t we do anything for the kids to get them doing something positive and get them off the streets,” said Commissioner Culpepper.

Commissioner Brad Goodbread said if they decide to rebuild, they should consider moving the skate park to the sports complex.

“If we are going to start over, why don’t we put it somewhere it can be a bigger part of a recreational area, somewhere that we can use our assets more efficiently?” he said. A family could come to the park and, while a parent took the little ones to the Wooden Jungle, the older kids could enjoy the skate park.

Commissioner Culpepper said the current site is in an area of population density and teens ride their bikes there. Moving it might make it harder for some kids to get there.

Mr. Scoggins said the old park was popular enough with area youngsters “to get beat up.”

“The last time repairs were made to the facility was about three years ago,” he explained. Repairs are expensive, he added.

Skate ramp wood costs a couple of hundred dollars a sheet and requires special screws or fasteners, he said.

It would cost $7,500 to $10,000 to repair wood at the current park, he estimated.

“If you get a $200,000 grant, where is the other $200,000 coming from?” said Commissioner Kelly Owens.

“Why couldn’t we pull this out of the landfill trust fund?” asked Commissioner Culpepper.

“Let’s try and fix what we have,” said Board Chairman Terry Burroughs. He said they can apply for a grant, but they may not be successful.

“See if there is money we can move around in the recreation budget,” suggested David Hazellief, in regard to finding funds for the repairs.

“Once we have the budget, we need to live within it,” he said. “We can’t keep taking money out of reserves or the landfill trust fund.”

“When we get the new budget in, let’s see if you and the administrator can come up with funds to repair it,” Chairman Burroughs told Mr. Scoggins. “Meanwhile, look for grants and have a plan. Sit down with the people who use the skate park and figure out exactly what the usage is.”

Other recreation news

In other recreation business, Mr. Scoggins said it has been suggested that the county swimming pool be open on weekends from spring break through the middle of November.

He said $13,675 would cover the additional weekends.

“The number is not too high, but the challenge is getting lifeguards,” he explained.

Most of the lifeguards at the pool in the summer are high school students or college students who work there as a summer job. In the fall, the college students leave to return to school and the high school students are busier with school-related sports and activities.

“We will have to be really aggressive and find some other creative measures to find additional lifeguards,” said Mr. Scoggins.

“We’ve reached out to the fire department, police department, and other agencies that have those skills,” he said. “We’ll continue to look. I am sure we will come up with some creative ideas to put people in those towers.”

“We ought to at least try it and see if it is self-sustaining,” said Commissioner Culpepper. “I have heard a lot of comments that the pool hours are just too short. You never know until you try it to find out.”

Commissioner Culpepper said more people may use the pool if it is open more convenient hours.

“You don’t have the money in the budget for next year,” said Chairman Burroughs. “Where are we going to get the money?”

“There will be some money generated through the entry fees,” said Commissioner Owens.

Commissioner Hazellief suggested the recreation department conduct some polling of the clients and see if the interest is there for the additional days and hours.

“When the next budget cycle comes around, consider it then,” he suggested.

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