ASPEN - The Aspen City Council on Monday night approved a last-minute addition to the city's 2013 budget - $25,000 for public-outreach and planning efforts associated with a future expansion to the Rio Grande Skatepark.
The appropriation was made at the behest of Councilman Torre. He pointed out that the park, completed in August 2000, is more than a decade old and that users believe an upgrade is necessary.
Scott Chism, a planner and project manager for Aspen's Parks and Recreation Department, said that the outreach program would be similar to others the city has undertaken in recent years, such as the open houses to garner community input on upgrades to Galena Plaza, the Mill Street corridor and the Rio Grande recycling center.
"A potential expansion is something we've talked about ever since we finished the skateboard park," Chism said. "How it would be funded, we don't know yet."
The park cost the city nearly $375,000 and was built through a contract with Team Pain Inc., a worldwide specialist in designing and building skateparks, in 2000. Local businessman Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass also contributed funds toward the project.
At 13,000 square feet of skating terrain, it consists of three bowls of varying depths to accommodate different skill levels and was the first modern skatepark in the Roaring Fork Valley. Users throughout the area flocked to the Aspen park after it opened instead of using the older, dilapidated skateboarding facilities in Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.
Since then, other localities in the valley - Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and Snowmass Village - have built concrete skateparks. Overall visits to the Aspen skatepark are said to have declined in the past few years, but it still remains popular with youths and young adults. On any given sunny afternoon, skateboarders can be found on the site.
Chism said the expansion likely would include what the park is missing: a street-skate area. While the current park consists of three bowls, a street-skate area would be a primarily flat concrete space with features and obstacles - including stairs, handrails, planter boxes and concrete ledges - which allow riders to perform a wider range of tricks.
"I would say that's what the park is lacking," said Brady Hurley, one of many local skateboard enthusiasts involved in planning the current park.
Hurley said all the valley skateparks have their own special attributes.
"It's akin to the four (Aspen Skiing Co.) mountains," he said. "Is one really better than the other, or do they all have something cool about them? Every one of the skateparks in the valley is unique, and they all have different features."
Hurley said he definitely will provide input on the expansion of the Aspen skatepark. The probable spot for the addition would be northeast of the current facility between the basketball court and the recycling center, Chism noted.
Mayor Mick Ireland said during Monday's meeting that in addition to planning for a skatepark expansion, city staffers also need to think about a safer street crossing between the facility and Taster's Pizza on Rio Grande Place. A flashing light or extra signage could become part of the plan.
"You have young kids crossing there and people who are skateboarders, and part of the skateboarder mentality is not always safety," he said. "We need to incorporate, in anything we do there, some consideration about making that crossing safer.
"The users are small people. They tend to dart in and out of things; that's what they're good at. And I know I've always felt a little trepidation approaching that intersection myself on a bike."