The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.
I read that the Park Board is considering a petition to build a skateboard park. It appears that the Park Board really wants to do this; it just doesn’t have the money right now. If it had the money, it apparently would replace the Grover Park horseshoe pits with a place where skateboarders, in-line skaters, and trick bicycle riders could play. All this sounds good, since what they’re asking for is a place where kids will be off the street and won’t bother the citizens. But, let’s stand back and take a close look.
The gist of the petition effort is to convince the Park Board that the taxpayers of Warrensburg have the responsibility to provide a place for kids to play. This is the same park system whose coffers have been sucked dry by the operating deficit at the Community Center (you know, the one where the voters were promised a free place to play and work out in order to secure their vote). This is a park system that cannot afford to repair heavily-used tennis courts (again, a free place to play). I don’t think it is the responsibility of the property owners and taxpayers. Here’s some things to consider.
Liability: Kids can get hurt at these sports, especially if they don’t wear proper protective gear. A city-run skateboard park would expose the city to substantial financial risk, unless the park was fenced and supervised. Which leads to…
Operating cost: A fenced and supervised park must be staffed. If existing park funds were to be stretched even further to cover this cost, the taxpayers would have to assume the additional burden for a limited sport. That’s unfair. The alternative would be a user fee.
Do skateboard park supporters claim the park will be self-supporting; that user fees will cover the operating costs and perhaps even amortize construction costs?. Of course, we heard that about the Community Center when it was built even though the tax levy to operate it failed. The park system would assume the risk that the petitioners were wrong. However, if it can be self-supporting, or even profitable, then there’s another answer…
Private Enterprise: If money can be made running a skateboard park, why doesn’t the group pitch the idea to an entrepreneur or even form their own corporation? Then, they can buy the land, build the park, and reap the profits from the demand they claim is out there. If the financials are there, investment will follow.
So, I’m all for them having a skateboard park to fill the need they claim exists – but please don’t come groveling for support from the poor, beleaguered taxpayer.
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