Skaters won't mind a nearby commuter train
There's been some concern lately that the newly announced Amtrak commuter rail station location near Monona Terrace will cause problems for the proposed Central Park design.
You see, previous plans had only taken into account the occasional freight train rolling through the new public park. With commuter rail, however, the trains would be more frequent and possibly more fast-moving.
Design ideas for the park had already included erecting a fence along the tracks so that people couldn't cross over them, so I'm hopeful that this new development won't make a big difference. The Central Park idea is a great one, beautifying and making use of a lot that has been fairly barren for quite awhile now.
And I can't help but thinking, you know who won't mind more frequent trains at all? Skaters. One of the proposed features of the new space is a full-scale skateboard park, something that I still can't believe Madison doesn't already have (the tiny, hidden one at the Goodman Community Center doesn't really count).
When smaller communities all around Madison have built, or are in the process of building, skateparks of all shapes and sizes, it baffles me that city officials here haven't gotten behind a similar project sooner, if at all.
The new, scaled down Central Park idea is the best chance at finally getting a skatepark we've had since ever. Dave Zweifel recently wrote an editorial in support of the project, wherein he noted:
...the city has agreed to include skateboarding in the new near east side park. Everyone from the mayor to Ald. Marsha Rummel, whose district includes the park, to the nearby neighborhood associations is behind the idea. The catch, of course, is that the skateboarders must come up with the money themselves.
I find it ridiculous that the city refuses to chip in even a little money for the skatepark. This feels very much like an instance of wanting to be able to pat yourself on the back for taking the needs of minors into account--if and when they make the park successful solely by their own efforts.
But like the city of Middleton recently recognized the importance and benefit to the community of a new dirt bike park and voted to provide a good chunk of the funding for it, Madison needs to step up.
Not only do we need to throw our full support behind building a proper skatepark, but we should be looking for ways to help finance it so that no one group is overly burdened with the task. The city could do a lot to seek out donations, matching grants, and public money to help the cause. And the community group behind the skatepark itself should certainly still be responsible for assisting in the process and finding a good, affordable designer (because skateparks require skatepark specific designers, not just a regular construction crew).
All of this helps provide several things for the community: It's an alternative space for kids to hang out in a safe, centrally located environment and helps prevent friction with pedestrians. It's a good, physical outlet for anyone interested in the sport. The city is not liable for accidents, but rather the individual riders are responsible for their own well-being, and a skatepark can also actually enforce helmet laws (as opposed to if someone is just out riding around the city).
You can find out more about the current efforts to create a free, public skatepark at the Madison Skatepark Fund's website.
Just how much money does the city have to spread around?
Enough people clapped their hands and the Edgewater redevelopment plan finally came back to life, earning approval from the Madison City Council over the course of an eight hour meeting and five separate votes.
Part of that involved giving the go ahead for $16 million in TIF financing from the city for the mostly private project. I've written about this, at great and often tiring length, but I just wanted to add one last thought.
Just how much money does Madison have to spread around?
If and when the city approves the second half of the $16 million when they finalize the budget in November, what about Mayor Dave's push to have the city effectively take over the foundering Overture Center? And the new Central Library plans? And the above mentioned Central Park? At least those projects more plainly offer public services and good, but ultimately it comes down to, can we afford all of this?
The TIF financing for Edgewater has always seemed odd to me, but especially in light of the many other, far more city oriented projects, it becomes even more troublesome.