Ann Arbor Skatepark grant proposal stalls after blowback from DDA and skatepark committee
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.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
"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 AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529.