BAR HARBOR — The temporary skateboard ramp at the town athletic fields will be removed in the next few weeks, town councilors and representatives of the Mount Desert Island Skatepark Association (MDISA) agreed Tuesday. The group’s current memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the town for use of the property requires the ramp to be removed by Nov. 15. It also requires the group to have completed their fundraising by the same date and the agreement should not be extended or renewed.
Councilors stressed, though, that they still hope the group’s efforts to build a permanent concrete skatepark will be successful. They are set to negotiate a new MOU with Town Manager Cornell Knight to bring to council at their Nov. 12 meeting.
MDISA chair Karen Svenson and board member Katie Churchill gave the council an update on the group’s work, but no council action was initially planned as no new MOU has been drafted. A report from the group was not submitted in time for inclusion in the council packet.
Svenson said they had assessed the condition of the temporary ramp. A ramp improvement work session was planned for Saturday, Oct. 24, with an eye toward making it safer and keeping it up until next spring, when they hope to break ground. They consulted youth who use the ramp as well as representatives from the YMCA for feedback, they said.
“I would hate for them to undergo the effort (to repair the temporary ramp) and then on the 17th have us say, ‘Take it down per your MOU,’” council Chairman Paul Paradis said. “We’ve had this type of meeting for many years now. It seems like the ramp never gets fixed up or maintained until we get to this point. Now it feels like we’re saying here’s one more last chance. They’re working hard, it’s a volunteer organization, but at some point we’ve got to be fair and say this isn’t working.”
“The word ‘temporary’ is the thing that sticks in my craw most often,” Councilor Peter St. Germain said. “We have to be concerned about the longevity of that [ramp] structure, and we may be at that point.”
Svenson said when the group negotiated the MOU with the town last September, they had hoped construction on the permanent park would have begun by now. “We expected last year to have broken ground, so that was really coincident with breaking ground, that we would of course get rid of the temporary ramp,” she said. “We’ll get rid of the ramp if council wants us to do that. We did say we would do it. I see that in the agreement the removal wasn’t contingent on our breaking ground, but that was my take on that arrangement. We can have a demolition session instead of a repair session.”
MDISA began fundraising in 2008. Recently they received a $7,500 challenge grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation in California, matched with $5,000 in their own fundraising. An anonymous $15,000 gift came in as well.
The group now has a cash balance of $43,832 in an account held with the town along with $21,425 in pledges, Svenson told councilors. They continue to work with Pillar Design Company on plans, including possible downsizing of the complex if they don’t meet their $100,000 goal. Following a fall fundraising campaign, they hope to work with the Parks and Recreation Committee and council over the winter to approve designs and break ground in the spring.
Councilor Anne Greenlee asked about the town’s liability for any injuries at the facility. It’s covered by the same town insurance policy as the tennis and baseball courts, Churchill said. Paradis said that concern was addressed early in the conversations between the group and the town.