Skate park gets gift from governor

Three weeks after a $50,000 grant for a planned South Whidbey skateboard park seemed to evaporate, the money reappeared Wednesday with just a few words from Gov. Gary Locke.

The grant, which was part of the state's 2001 capital budget, disappeared last month when Locke froze the funds. This week, Locke bowed to pressure from the legislature to release the capital budget funds, freeing up funds destined for a number of state agencies, including the Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation -- the granting agency for the South Whidbey skate park.

Rep. Kelly Barlean, R-Langley, said the holdup was unconstitutional. Locke signed the capital budget bill earlier this year after it passed through the state Senate and House of Representatives.

"The Legislature said the governor didn't have the constitutional authority to do that," Barlean said.

Now that the money is freed up, the skate park grant is almost certain to come through. Suzette Hart, director of the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District, said Thursday that IAC officials told her the grant is "95-percent sure." The parks district is the official applicant for the skate park grant, though the South Whidbey Rotary Club responsible for the remainder of the estimated $150,000 needed to build the structure. Hart said the grant money will be guaranteed when Gov. Locke puts his intentions in writing.

Rotarian Jack Hoover said the news about the grant was good. But his club still needs about $4,000 to reach its $100,000 goal toward the skate park fund.

"We still have money to raise," he said

The Rotarians and the parks district plan to begin construction on the 10,000 square-foot, concrete park in April.

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