By Ross Markman
After many hours of discussion and several months of meetings, Havre-area skateboarders finally have a place where one day they'll be able to hone their skills.
Havre Mayor Bob Rice Monday night said the city has designated a location just below Robert Patterson Memorial Park as the eventual site for a skateboard park in Havre. Rice also said he wrote a letter to and is working with Gov. Judy Martz's office to secure a temporary site for skateboarders at the National Guard Armory parking lot on Second Street.
Area skateboarders last fall formed the Havre Skateboarding Association, and have been working with area business owners and City Council members to find a location for a skate park.
Though the city has identified a site, that, Rice said, could change.
"I don't think we've firmly decided yet. We just went ahead with that location for the grant," Rice said. "I look for things to start rolling on this. (The kids) are showing effort and they're showing some interest."
Havre-based Bear Paw Development Corp. applied for a grant from the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks for $24,900 to start building a skateboard park. The City Council had to select a location by July 1 to be eligible.
If the city gets the grant, it will have to match it dollar for dollar.
"This grant is very competitive. It's one of the only sources of grant money that can be used for outdoor recreation purposes," said Paul Tuss, executive director of Bear Paw Development Corp. "Montana has only $500,000 in its pot for this."
The project could carry a price tag of as much as $150,000 to $200,000, Tuss said.
The city could know by late summer if it will receive the grant, he added. And in many cases, the application is not approved the first time out, he said.
"But because you've made an effort, if you were to apply the next year, there is some added consideration toward the application," he said.
Whether or not it receives the grant, the city can change the location of the park, Tuss said, but would first need permission from the state.
"Getting the money has nothing to do with the actual location. The thing that does matter is that we put a location in the application," he said.
Meantime, Rice said the temporary site at the National Guard parking lot could work for now. The kids, he said, could use ramps and other skating apparatus at the lighted and fenced lot.
Allen "Woody" Woodwick, a City Council member working with the skateboarding association, said using the National Guard lot is not a good idea.
"It's not city property and it's too far away," he said today.
The Patterson Park location, Woodwick said, is covered by the city's insurance, Montana Municipal Insurance. The National Guard site is not.
"The trouble there is the skateboarding association would have to come up with the liability insurance," Woodwick said.
The Patterson Park site, he added, is ideal. It's well lighted, and includes other amenities like restrooms, basketball courts and a jogging path, he said. It could even be used temporarily, he said. All that's needed is a slab of concrete.
"The east end is really just right over the hill. The south end is fairly close, and so's the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Avenue area where I live," he said. "It's fairly central."
Council president Rick Pierson said the Armory parking lot could be a viable temporary solution.
"If it does fly with the governor, it's up to the skateboarding association," Pierson said. "They're looking for a real quick fix and if they can get that spot until we can get the other on board, it'd be a place to go. That's what they've been looking for."
Other permanent locations being considered include First Bank Park near the Montana State University-Northern practice football field.
The skateboarding association had originally hoped the park would be built on Fifth Avenue near Taco John's.
"If (the city) thinks these locations would work into their plans, then I'm all for it," the group's treasurer, Janine Donoven, said last month.
Whichever site is ultimately selected, Woodwick said, the community will have the chance to offer its opinion.
"Of course before anything is set in stone, we'll have some public meetings," he said. "The [skateboarding association] is getting its act together. They can see the city is behind them."