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South Whidbey's own skate park catches air

South Whidbey skateboarders and extreme bicyclists are getting a late Christmas present this year. Or maybe it's an early one.

Either way, they won't mind, because they've been waiting for this gift -- a new skate and bike park -- for a long time.

On Monday, the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District and the South Whidbey Rotary Club broke ground for the 6,000-square-foot park. Planned to be essentially a concrete obstacle course with hills, valleys and rails for skaters and bikers to ride, the park could be complete as early as January 2003 or as late as March, depending on rainfall.

Present at the groundbreaking ceremony was sophomore Ari Strickland, who was part of the two-year planning and fund-raising process. During that time, he offered input into the skatepark's design from a skater's point of view.

"This is going to be a great place for skaters. It will provide us with a legal place to skate," Strickland said.

Strickland says the new park will offer challenges that aren't available now.

"Parking lots don't offer much chance for improvement and most businesses don't want us there anyway," Strickland said.

Strickland's mother, Kathleen Davenny of Langley, is looking forward to the completion of the facility as well.

"We have to drive our kids to Oak Harbor's park now or send them on Island Transit," she said. "I want Ari to enjoy his sport, but closer to home."

Commissioners representing the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District awarded a construction bid for the project on Sept. 18 to T.F. Sahli of Burien. The estimated cost of the project is $150,000.

Suzette Hart, director of the parks district, said the project has been issued a permit and scheduled to get started this week.

The skate park has been the dream for several years among South Whidbey's young extreme athletes. Though the parks district did not have the money to build it, more than $100,000 raised by the South Whidbey Rotary Club, plus a $50,000 state recreation grant, will be enough to fund construction.

Hart said Rotary members were instrumental in raising matching funds to help build the park. Local teens were also part of making the park a reality, contributing to the design of the facility.

"Teens were very involved in the project from the beginning and will stay involved after the park's completion helping to enforce facility rules," Hart said.

Last year, Purkis-Rose, a Fullerton, Calif architectural firm, began drawing up plans for a 10,000-square-foot park. When the firm's first design went over budget by about $35,000, the skate park was downsized to fit the $150,000 budget proposed by Rotary and the district. In addition, two large walls designed into the park were reduced in size to cut costs.

Both Purkis-Rose and T.F. Sahli have experience in designing and building skate parks. Purkis-Rose has designed several such parks in Washington, while the T.F. Sahli firm has built 15 skate parks in the region, including parks in Burien, Snohomish, Burlington, Everett, Auburn and Kent.

The skate park will be built in the Maxwelton Road portion of the South Whidbey Community Park, on a site once used as a sand volleyball court.

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