West Allis - The idea of a skate park in West Allis is on a roll, following one recommendation to put the proposed facility in a local park.
But the concept still has a long way to go before skateboarders are doing fakies and kickflips.
A skate park has been a dream for years and now the city is thinking of using federal community development block grant funds to establish one.
The preferred site is Radtke Park, based on discussions to date involving planning officials, but the site has not been finalized. Nor has the concept itself, though some city officials feel strongly about the topic
Special place to skate
Alderwoman Cathleen Probst, recently a high school teacher in West Allis, said young people have wanted a place of their own to skate for a long time.
"They've longed for someplace where they won't get yelled at," Probst said.
"Do we want kids to skate in alleys or on sidewalks?" asked Alderman Vincent Vitale who also favors a park.
City ordinances close the door on just about everywhere to skate except in your own driveway, said Alderman Michael Czaplewski.
"I'm glad to see it's finally coming together," he said.
The impetus for a skate park came from police and neighborhood meetings, said city planner Bart Griepentrog.
"It would prevent damage to private property and provide a place for kids to do what they do anyway," he said.
Skating on thin ideas?
Some aren't so sure a skate park is such a good idea.
One of them is Alderman Gary Barczak, who said at on Oct. 2 hearing on the topic that a pay-to-skate business closed in the city because nobody used it. Barczak said he doesn't want the city to sink a lot of money into a skate park and see if fail.
Probst countered that the city's skate park would be free, which would take away the main reason the skate business failed.
Barczak and others also worried about opening the city up to expensive liability claims if someone gets hurt at the skate park.
"We're making an accident to happen," Barczak said.
But city attorney Scott Post said the city has "recreational immunity."
"We probably will be sued, but we won't be paying out," Post said.
At the public hearing, even those who favor such a park want to make sure the city considers even the smaller details.
A 70th Street resident who said she supports the park said there should be a restroom, possibly like the chemical toilet provided at Brookfield's Wirth Park.
"These are young males and I don't want them to use the trees," she said.
The right site
The city has investigated some 16 potential skate park sites, though the list has been shortened.
School grounds and McCarty Park were ruled out because the city wants to use federal CDBG money and those sites don't qualify, said John Stibal, director of development, in a recent report to the Common Council.
The proposed skate park must be in an area of low- and moderate-income families and the planners put priority on high visibility for attracting skaters and being able to monitor them.
Another priority was having the least risk of conflicts with neighbors and with other park users.
Planners also wanted the park to be accessible by being near a bus line or having good walking and biking accessibility. A central location also was a priority.
Based on all that, five sites - Liberty Heights, Veterans' Park, Radtke Park, Klentz Park and Kopperud Park - seem to qualify best.
But Radtke, at 84th Street and National Avenue, got the recommendation from the Department of Development. It had the best score in terms of the city's priorities.
Crossing that road
But Radtke has one major drawback: Kids would cross National Avenue on a curve to get to the park. Traffic comes from a bit behind pedestrians, Grippentrog said.
Although recent improvements to the intersection have made it safe, Stibel recommended in his report further study.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation visited the site and confirmed that the curb ramps and median openings are appropriate and are aligned well. The DOT indicated that additional pedestrian warning signs might help. City planners agree, Stibal wrote, and suggest clearing brush away to improve visibility and installing flashing beacons and improved signals.
Besides the Wirth Park facility in Brookfield, skate parks also exist in Racine and Beloit.
OTHER SITES AT A GLANCE
From among about 16 potential sites, five rose to the top to be considered for a skate park. Radtke Park at 84th Street and National Avenue was recommended, but the other front-runners and their pros and cons according to the department of community development report were:
1540 S. 62nd St.
Near well-traveled roads with pedestrian, bike and transit access
Tucked within a residential area with greater risk of bothering neighbors
Park is already heavily used and has little remaining space
More potential for problems with current park users
70th Street and National Avenue
Prime visibility and access
Minimal conflict with residential users
Proximity to veterans memorial
2601 S. 72nd St.
Plenty of room for a skate park
Within a strictly residential neighborhood giving rise to risk of potential conflicts with neighbors
Not very visible
Not very accessible directly via bike or buses
76th Street near Walker Street
Accessible and visible
Has enough space
Adjacent to residential properties
Located at the edge of the city, while a more central location was preferred