'It's like a pocket skate park'

HAPPY VALLEY, Ore. - Kids in Happy Valley who love to ride skateboards will be excited to hear that a new skate park is in the works.

At around 4,500 square feet, the new skate park that will be going in at Happy Valley Park won't be the biggest or fanciest - but that has been the idea all along.

"It's like a pocket skate park," said Steve Campbell, spokesman for the City of Happy Valley.

The plan is to build a smaller scale skate park for the neighborhood kids to enjoy. There's already plenty to do at the park, but the city wanted to add something a little different.

"We've got soccer, basketball, baseball," said Campbell. "We were looking for something in between, so the skate park was a great concept and idea."

"A skate park is one thing that people really wanted," said Suzanne Montalbano, Parks Advisory President. "We just put in a community garden and the splash pad as well."

Local resident Meghan Mowry, who was at the park with her toddler when we stopped by, agreed that a skate park would be good for the neighborhood kids.

"There's baseball and there's basketball and there's gardening and there's running through the water, but there isn't anything for the kids that have a little more energy or aren't necessarily really into those kind of sports," Mowry said. "I think it would be good."

Work hasn't yet begun on the new skate park but the plan is to have it finished by the end of the year. Right now a final design is in place, which kids had a part in developing, and the project will be going out to bid next month. Work will likely start sometime in September.

While that might sound like a project that's on the fast track, Chris Randall, Public Works Director for the City of Happy Valley, said the idea actually first came about several years ago.

"Around 2005 or 2006 we got a petition from residents," he said. "About 200 people signed a petition that they wanted a skate park somewhere in Happy Valley Park."

Montalbano said a couple of neighborhood teenagers, who are now young adults, spearheaded the idea and got people talking about it.

And that got other kids excited as well.

"My boys were adamant about it and they really wanted to go to City Hall meetings," said local resident Nikki Elkins, who has three sons who are avid skateboarders. "The boys just really wanted to give their opinion on why they wanted it."

However, about the same time, the city's parks system was annexed into the North Clackamas Parks & Recreation District, which was more interested in creating a destination facility at Hood View Park than a small skate park at Happy Valley Park.

So the idea got put on the back burner. Once the dust settled, though, it was brought back up. Fast forward to today and the city is moving full steam ahead with the project, which is slated to be done by November of this year.

"All the boys in Happy Valley are really excited," said Elkins.

The city told us that while folks in the community are looking forward to the skate park, a few people have raised concerns about whether it would attract the wrong element. Campbell doesn't anticipate there being any problems, though, for several reasons.

For one, the skate park won't be a large one like some of the ones you find across the Portland metropolitan area that attract regional competitions.

"They were worried about bringing outside influence in," Campbell said. "It's going to bring in the gangs. It's going to bring in the graffiti. There's nothing that supports that."

Secondly, parents usually drive their kids to the park from their homes. Which means there will be grown-ups around to keep an eye on things.

"This will probably be policed by parents," Campbell said.

And then there is the demographic in Happy Valley. Campbell said the city, which is 90 percent residential, mostly consists of families and the crime rate is low.

As far as funding, which in these lean times can be difficult to find, the money is coming from what's called a System Development Charge (SDC) that the city gets from new home construction. The money from that charge goes directly to the North Clackamas Parks & Recreation District, which uses it for public works projects in Happy Valley.

The city is also asking residents to help out. While the money is already there to do the project, they are hoping to offset the costs, which would allow them to use some of the SDC funds for other projects in the community.

Folks who would like to contribute can purchase a brick that will be part of a new walkway that leads to the skate park. The brick can be used as a memorial to someone special, to advertise a business or to have a family's name shown as a donor.