TLDR: My take: Our parks still are in need of many basic improvements before the City of Mansfield should be looking at spending $150,000 on a new skatepark facility.
Spending a weekend working in my yard, I had not had the chance to read this week’s council docket. However, I was quite surprised when Monday’s Richland Source headline was calling for a $200,000 for park upgrades, including up to $150,000 proposal for a new skate park at Maple Lake Park.
The city would pay for the new skate park with PRIDE tax dollars, 20% of funds collected are designated for parks. I am very surprised that this is scheduled to sail through committee, caucus and is expected to be voted on come Tuesday night. (Even the vote to turn Mulberry Street two-way received multiple readings and that wasn’t a lot by comparison.)
Skateboarding was quite popular when I was growing up in Mansfield the 1980s and 1990s. Everyone who had a skateboard was working on getting a better board, better trucks, or the sweetest wheels. I remember my friends wheeling and dealing with each other for better parts. I also remember that they were a problem because when they practiced their tricks — their skateboards everywhere and tearing up private and public property.
Fast forward 30 years. Even though the Olympics are introducing skateboarding as an Olympic sport in, it’s popularity globally has diminished significantly since 2000. Admittingly, there are still teenagers that still skateboard. However, are there enough kids in Mansfield to support a new skate park of their own.
It’s not that I do not think that a skate park is a worthy idea. Hundreds of cities across the nation have built them. In fact, this would be Mansfield’s second attempt at a city-run skate park. The first one was at North Lake Park and repurposed the old swim club pool and surrounding facilities. It opened in 1990, with a five-year contract, but after being heavily vandalized in 1993 – it had an uncertain future. It’s a grass field now.
We do need to spend money on our park system. This evening, I visited or drove past 12 of our city parks with two of my kids. I had to carry my son out of Burton Park, he loved the giant slide, he didn’t want to leave. Not too different then I reacted when my dad took me to the park growing up. The other small plastic playset’s chains were broken and he couldn’t climb up to get to he slide.
We stopped at Maple Lake Park; he cried when we couldn’t play – he didn’t understand the significance of the yellow caution tape from the broken slides. (I do not know if weather or vandals damaged them.)
From there, we drove through South Park, their playground was busy and looked to be in good shape. I drove across town to John Todd Park, a park that I had never visited, but knew it had some historical significance. It had one tiny children’s playset, and some older equipment down in the valley – we didn’t walk down to see what shape it was in. It looks like the park bridge needed some capital improvement as well.
After a quick stop at the Dairy Queen, we went to Liberty Park, whose modern playset is by far one of the best in the city. My kids played there for 25 minutes, although my youngest kept threatening to run into the creek. Another one of those, I’ve become my dad moments when I kept telling him to get away from the water! The downside of that park is the sidewalk from the parking lot to the creek needs some significant structural work to be safe and accessible for strollers, wheelchair, and not a general trip hazard.
Before heading home, we drove by Newman, Johns Park, Hamilton, Sterkel, and North Lake Parks. Johns Park had one of the nices playground areas in the city. I was happy to see how nice that park appeared. I’m so disappointed in Sterkel Park. The playground equipment is the same as when I was a kid. I’ve been by Prospect, it gets beat up a lot, but it’s right in the middle of a neighborhood.
While visiting all these parks, I never saw any kids riding skateboards. I did see several families enjoying picnics, teens and adults playing basketball, a couple playing tennis at Liberty Park. An attempt at baseball on what’s left of the field at Liberty Park. In my tour over the course of a couple of hours, close to 100 people actively using our city parks.
If we are going to invest in our parks, I believe the city should be putting our PRIDE tax dollars into fixing the issues that our parks have before trying to build new facilities that would require new long-term maintenance responsibilities?
Could that $150,000 be better spent at installing new basketball backboards, rims and painting official lane markings? A quick search shows that a new commercial backboard & pole (with anti-graffiti coating) is $2,000. For $30,000 you could modernize all the basketball courts in our city parks.
Other items like replacing broken chain link fences, fixing broken sidewalks, and making sure our current facilities are safe for visitors should be our priority. Besides Maple Lake Park, are any of our other parks going to see an update for their tennis courts? Also, what is our goal to build parks that are inclusive for all children in our community? As a father of a child with Autism, I understand the need for not only a park where he can enjoy sensory play but would love to be in a play area that is in an enclosed area for his safety.
Our parks department has so man fun and engaging activities for the children of our community this summer. I think they are doing a great job working on getting people involved in the community. I so hope I can get my children to one of the upcoming movie nights this summer. They also have craft nights and other special events that always seem to happen against another event on our families social calendar. You can learn more about there events here.
If elected this November to City Council, I would push for the continued improvement of our park systems, with capital outlays that will improve on our existing facilities and make better use of what families in our community are looking for when they do go to their parks.
If you haven’t taken some time to visit one of our 15+ parks, I encourage you to do so. They are our hidden gems; we need to keep them shining. Also, if you have a few minutes, Mansfield is in the final days of a survey for developing a Park System Master Plan. It would be great to include your opinions.