Wadsworth Park, the 45-acre county facility on the mainland side of the Flagler Beach bridge, will soon see a tennis court converted to four pickleball courts, but county commissioners are not ready to approve a plan to renovate the skateboarding park: the county administration is proposing a band aid, while users of the park are advocating for a more ambitious, but also more permanent, renovation.
“The pickleball courts are done, the skateboard park I don’t think is ready for primetime yet,” County Commission Chairman Greg Hansen said at a workshop this afternoon.
The pickleball courts will be built for $100,000, down from the $175,000 the county had originally budgeted. The original plan called for building pickleballs from scratch. But the two proposed locations, one near the entrance, another in or near the volleyball courts and a pond, were problematic, because either plan would have required displacing overflow parking spaces or the volleyball courts.
“Wadsworth park is heavily used so we really aren’t trying to impact an area that’s been historically used for overflow parking,” County Administrator Heidi Petito said.
The park has three tennis courts, two of them paired in their own fenced in area, and a single court attached to them in a separate enclosure. Petito said the paired courts are more often used than the single court. So the county will transform the single court into four pickleball courts. Since there’ll be no need to build a new base, the cost will be almost half what had been budgeted. It won;t be much of a change for that court: it’s already painted for pickleball use.
“God knows we don’t ever have enough pickle ball courts,” Commissioner Donald O’Brien said. “Plus, you know, if it keeps the seniors off the streets and out playing pickleball, we gotta have ’em.” There was little disagreement ion the commission but for Andy Dance’;s question about financing.
“As I understand it, impact fees are for capacity issues, so how do we utilize it when we’re renovating a space?” Dance asked.
Park impact fees are levied on new residential construction. They are a one-time levy designed to defray the “impact” new residents bring to their community: the more residents, the more need for parks, so rather than tax existing residents for such expansions, impact fees theoretically only tax new residents for the new services. Spending impact fee revenue is restricted to projects that expand a park or build new parks. The revenue may not be spent on renovations. The spending on pickleball courts at Wadsworth is in a bit of a gray area. It is not an expansion, but a replacement–a re-purposing. Petito defended the spending.
“You’re adding new facilities for that purpose. Right now you don’t have pickleball, so you’re utilizing your park to develop new pickleball courts that don’t exist,” Petito said. The county has $392,000 in park impact fees available.
“I Don’t know that I follow that logic but I’ll go with it for now,” Dance said.
Dance also made clear that he was not prepared to vote on the skate park before hearing more details about various options to renovate the park, and hearing from users and advocates of the skate park.
The county built Wadsworth skate park in 2000. It’s a 24,000 square foot space enclosed by a chain link fence on the east side of the park. Its slab is concrete. But its skating ramps are steel. They rust. They’re in poor condition, and have already been renovated once before. In 2014 and 2015, when Petito was in charge of generals services, she initiated one renovation, which was carried out in 2018. But the skate park still needs so much attention that it was recently shut down to accommodate further safety repairs. “It is in need of replacement,” Petito said.
The American Ramp Company is quoting the county a price of $233,311 including freight and installation to replace more than half the equipment at the skate park. But the new ramps would also be steel.
In the first week of November, Jay Wolfington, a Flagler Beach resident who was at the origin of spurring the movement that led to the creation of the skate park, teamed up with Steve McKaig, a Flagler Beach resident who turned professional skateboarder in 2019, to advocate for a complete renovation of the skate park: a rebuild that would include ramps made of concrete, not steel, for durability, and that would turn the facility into a park attractive enough for regional competitions, and the potential attention and revenue that would draw to the county. Wolfington and McKaig got over 1,200 to sign their change.org petition. Their social media posts went viral. They both addressed the commission today.
“They say government moves slow. I gotta be honest,” Dance said, “this is the fastest moving project I’ve ever seen from a Facebook post just a couple of weekends ago to facilities repaired and a couple hundred thousand dollars being ready to fix a skate park. Compliments to staff and to the administrator for being responsive.” But Dance still had questions, among them the cost of going with a full concrete-ramp park.
Petito said that when she studied the matter several years ago, the cost was $350,000 for a small park, $750,000 for a medium-size park, and $1.5 million for a regional park that could host events. “So if you take those numbers and maybe double or triple them that’s probably where you’re at right now,” Petito said. She guessed a regional park at Wadsworth would cost $3 to $5 million.
“The regional skate park was by far the most expensive one, and I suggest that that is the one that you consider,” Wolfington told commissioners today. “Reason being is because if you spent one of the other ones, people would have a phenomenal time, it would help the community, there’d be nothing but good things to say as well. But you will not receive any return on your investment.” A regional park would create a substantial draw, he said. “If you budget for that bigger expense, it will pay off more in the long run.”
McKaig spoke as a professional skateboarded who got his skills at the skate park, which he described as a safe place where his parents dropped him off and picked him up. He now has a family and a business. “Having a concrete skatepark will bring contests, it could potentially bring other professional skateboarders out of Flagler Beach to have the opportunity that I was able to have growing up,” he said, especially with the ongoing growth: it would provide a place for skateboarders to have a safe place to play.
Carla Cline, a Flagler Beach resident for over 40 years, pressed for something more than a “fix” at the skate park, citing Team Pains, the Winter Springs company, as an option. “It’s definitely something that the community needs. I appreciate that you guys are willing to fix the skate park, but I think we should invest more” toward a long-term, better quality solution.
There’s certainly support on the commission for a more concrete solution, but to what extent–commissioners are not prepared to say. They want more data from the administration: actual costs, what Team Pain would be prepared to build, and how the project would fit in the context of the county’s parks master plan
“Regardless of what we get back from it, there’s an upfront cost that still has to be met,” Dance said.
Once again, the administration did not provide the public any background materials about the workshop, though it included several prepared presentations that were provided to the commissioners.