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Posted on Wed, Sep 8, 2010 : 1:02 p.m.

Ann Arbor Skatepark grant proposal stalls after blowback from DDA and skatepark committee

By Ryan J. Stanton

A proposal for the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority to kick in $50,000 toward the Ann Arbor Skatepark initiative has stalled.

Newcombe Clark, the DDA board member who proposed the grant, is dropping his pursuit to help fund the skatepark. The decision was made after blowback from fellow DDA board members and even the Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark, the nonprofit group trying to raise money to build a skatepark at Veterans Memorial Park.


Ann Arbor DDA board member Newcombe Clark is dropping his pursuit of a $50,000 grant for the Ann Arbor Skatepark initiative after receiving blowback.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"I wish the skatepark the best in their efforts, and the door remains open at the DDA for them or anybody with an idea that would help improve the downtown and surrounding community," Clark said in a statement today.

Clark's proposal was publicly denounced at the Ann Arbor City Council's meeting Tuesday night. Council Member Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, read a statement on behalf of Trevor Staples, chairman of the Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark. Kunselman acknowledged Staples is a close personal friend of his.

"They got very little advance notice of this proposal, and they were not able to get the solid answers they were seeking regarding how DDA funding could be used for the skatepark since its location was in Veterans Memorial Park outside the DDA district," Kunselman said. "Trevor tells me that the Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark committee have a very good working relationship with the DDA and its members, but they're also very aware of the rules governing the DDA funding and want to make it clear to the community, again, they did not initiate this proposal brought forth by a DDA member, nor did they support the proposal."

Clark, who is running for City Council, said the proposal failed to move forward during the DDA's Partnerships Committee meeting this morning. Without the skatepark committee at the table, he said, "none of us are spending any more time on it."

Clark said there is willingness by the Partnerships Committee to help the skatepark with a grant in the future, assuming it is worked out with the involvement of the skatepark committee.

"The invitation is extended and open," he said.

The Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark has struggled to raise the $1 million it needs for the skatepark. Washtenaw County's Parks and Recreation Commission has pledged up to $400,000 in matching funds if the skatepark committee can raise other funds. But so far, the skate park committee has raised only $80,000, which puts the total amount pledged to date at $160,000 with the county's matching money.

Clark had hoped $50,000 from the DDA — though it could not be spent at Veterans Park where the skatepark is proposed — could spur other donations and unlock more matching funds from the county. He said the DDA money could have been put toward signage near downtown directing skaters to Veterans Park, or possibly complementary facilities, such as a ramp at West Park or elsewhere closer to the downtown.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Sat, Sep 18, 2010 : 10:36 p.m.

Sure, I agree with most that 1 million is a lot of money. I also agree that the kids should have a place to skate. Tecumseh has a skate park, fenced in, the park closes at dusk, and skaters and bmx riders alike use it. Give the kids a place to skate otherwise all of you homeowners, business owners, drivers and pedestrians are all going to be complaining or keep complaining when they are polluting your quiet with their grinding.


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 11:54 a.m.

Haters gonna hate. Maybe the money should be spent on more "ART" bike racks. Real creative idea guys! The art capital of Michigan and that's all you guys could come up with? I could only imagine the amount of money that the city of Ann Arbor wastes.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 10:02 p.m.

haha Craig, you are older than I thought! I can tell you, as a lifelong Ann Arborite, that I have been to meetings since I was a kid to try to get a skateboard park in Ann Arbor. The most recent meetings I attended were for my own kids who wanted a skateboard park, and those took place around 2000 / 2001. Through these planning meetings, and, with the help of a skate store that used to be on Washtenaw Ave., a skate park actually did materialize in the Buhr Park Ice Rink for a while. It did well until the city wanted to charge more than most could afford to pay. Kids will skate anywhere, but skate parks are fun. My only concern with the one proposed at Vet's is that it looks like the location for it is right on the corner of Maple and Dexter where there is a nice little hill and grove of trees that I would hate to see removed for a skate park. Our family likes how the skate park in the Holland / Ottawa Beach area is right next to the dog park. We think it is a great match up. The skate park is out of the way, but still has people nearby keeping an eye on it. Skaters can have fun, but know that people are nearby watching. Parents can watch their kids skate, while letting the dog run. One million dollars seems excessive for a skate park, but I can easily see a scaled down version at Platt and Ellsworth. It could be next to the dog park, but across the street from Southeast Area Park, another active park in Ann Arbor.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 11:02 a.m.

I am also indifferent to a skate park. However, a million bucks? What is half a million not good enough? Seems there are better ways to spend that much money that would benefit more people.

A Pretty Ann Arbor

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 9:44 a.m.

Newcombe Clark seems to have trouble with maps...this isn't the first time he has gone outside the boundaries for a project. A simple look at the boundary map for the board he is on would have helped up front. I am all for a skate park and I do think it belongs in Veterans Park since this is a family friendly - HIGHLY active park. I am unsure where the funds should come from - in this economy, thinking about all the things that have been CUT - who will fund the maintenance, insurance and everything else that goes along with the project?


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 7:54 a.m.

The DDA should reject outright any request for support of a skateboard park. Considering last year's deficit spending and new monetary gifts pending for Zingerman's and the Ann Arbor City Apartments, the DDA should be more financially prudent. Likewise, Washtenaw County's Parks and Recreation Commission should not pledge up to $400,000 in matching funds which should be used to support more worthy projects that will benefit a wider segment of the population. It is difficult to justify spending $1 million for a dedicated skateboard park that will be used only by a few. In 2005 a study determined that about 5% of children 13 to 18 years old used skateboards. That percentage translates into 250 to 500 youths. Add another 500 adults who may skateboard and the park will service less than 1% of Ann Arbor's population. Also, believing that skateboarding will be confined to a skateboard park is unrealistic. The skateboard will continue to be a mode of transportation about town. Also, for many skateboarders, the park may not be convenient when an enthusiast wants to use his skateboard. Finally, skateboarding is a dangerous activity that produces many injuries. Many skateboarders do not wear safety helmets or pads. A concrete and steel skateboard park with ramps that launch kids into the air will never achieve a Consumers Report safety achievement award. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons is so concerned that it published guidelines which should be followed by those sponsoring and maintaining the skateboard park (if built): Whoever owns and operates the skateboard park should be concerned about liability. Can liability insurance coverage be purchased for a skateboard park? For safety sake the park should be fenced and have a lockable gate. Hours of use should be restricted especially during school days and activities monitored by a trained supervisor. In this regard, who will pay for the supervision and also for the maintenance? A park for skateboarding may be attractive to the few who participate but hardly justifies the cost or the risks.

Audion Man

Wed, Sep 8, 2010 : 6:55 p.m.

What?! No pandering reaction piece about's favorite serial entrepreneur?


Wed, Sep 8, 2010 : 6:10 p.m.

I have nothing against skateboarding, per se, but I also think we can find much more important ways to spend a million dollars, or so, of public funds - unless we could take the money away from the Dreiseitl Disaster in front of Hieftje Hall - now that I would support! Bronze the Art Commission members, and plant them in front of city hall, instead!

peg dash fab

Wed, Sep 8, 2010 : 4:25 p.m.

There is a ton of community support for a skatepark, but $1,000,000 is a lot of money! I don't understand why the city doesn't build a skatepark with Rec & Ed funds. How much does it cost to create a baseball field? Or a canoe livery? Or a swimming facility? Were sluggers / paddlers / swimmers forced to raise that money privately?

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Sep 8, 2010 : 4:11 p.m.

As a 58 year old 28 year resident of Ann Arbor I am not opposed to a skate board thingy, I am indifferent to it. If these folks can raise the money (with no help from me)good for them. I have no problem if "we the people" offer them some space to build it. Many years ago I played softball on city owned property supplied and maintained, in part, by folks who never played on those fields.

5c0++ H4d13y

Wed, Sep 8, 2010 : 3:33 p.m.

The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. I don't think the $80k the skatepark committee has raised is anything to sneeze at. Riley skate park happened because one person was moved to donate. Maybe the same thing can happen in A2? You will never achieve a goal you never set. Vet's park is an activity park. It's 5 ball fields, three tennis courts, an ice rink and pool. It's natural to put another activity there. The skatepark would use far less space than the parking lots do now. Anyone that wants to get an idea of what kind of riffraff will use the park can come to one of our events. We're a friendly pack of parents and kids. For those that want to donate head over to the web page. We don't feel like were Sisyphus pushing the bolder up the hill but if he had one more person pushing he might have made it.


Wed, Sep 8, 2010 : 2:22 p.m.

I'm not opposed to a skate park. But instead of taking green space at our beloved Vets Park, why not recycle the eyesore on Packard at Stone School called the old Georgetown Mall. Why not take that space that is already a concrete jungle and turn it into a useful concrete jungle. And then everyone is happy.


Wed, Sep 8, 2010 : 2 p.m.

This skate park idea has been bouncing around for a long time. If those that want it cannot raise the money and don't have their own deep pockets then drop it already. If I remember there were at one time some ramps at vets park that seemed to be underused and eventually fell into disrepair. I envision the same thing with this skate park. If built they will not come and it will be an eyesore that will have to be swept away. Unless of course the City begins dumping money into it which it certainly should not even contemplate doing.


Wed, Sep 8, 2010 : 1:57 p.m.

"Your assertion that a skate park would bring drugs, violence and gang activity is way off base." of course it is. Get off my lawn! and all that.


Wed, Sep 8, 2010 : 1:53 p.m.

wasp, chill out. Your assertion that a skate park would bring drugs, violence and gang activity is way off base. In reality it would be the SAME kids we already have in Ann Arbor, only it would give them a place to practice an otherwise dangerous and destructive hobby. Your assertion that A2 doesn't really want a skate park may well be true - OR, it could be that the organizers have simply failed at promoting their idea appropriately. I fully support a skate park for this city, but no one has ever asked me to sign a petition, give a donation, or otherwise. I would never use it myself, but it would keep kids with skateboards from grinding on every good curb around town and trashing private property, or from getting hassled in the diag, etc. Grand Haven, MI, has a nice, small, skate park on the fringe of downtown. And guess what, it's always packed with cute kids having a blast. Certainly not drugged out, violent gangs. There is a fence around the park, and it closes at dusk. Simple.


Wed, Sep 8, 2010 : 12:42 p.m.

I am glad the DDA finally came to their senses on this issue and Mr. Clark's position on the board should come under review. Clearly from the underwhelming financial support from the community Ann Arbor does NOT want a skate park. Raising only $80,000.00 of a $1 million goal in Ann Arbor for a community project demonstrates a failure of the organizers to realize how much Ann Arbor does NOT want this in our city. Placing it at Vets park is a horrible idea and will only bring unwanted trouble, drugs, violence and gang activity. Perhaps these folks who want a skate park so badly should consider opening a private one and see how well that they go bankrupt within a year. I am very glad to see this skate park garbage stall out and hopefully it dies a slow painful death. Perhaps the money the Washtenaw County Parks and Rec. Commission has agreed to be used could instead be used to maintain existing parks and facilities. I bet $400,000 could go a long way to mowing the parks!!