PORTLAND – While work is scheduled to begin late this summer on a $250,000 skate park at Dougherty Field, a number of skateboarders remain critical of the design and the process that led to its selection.

“Opposition to the park is widespread,” said Tom Haraden, a 25-year-old skateboarder. He said skateboarders are upset that the city didn’t listen to them and rejected the design they liked best.

“It’s totally opposite of what everyone wanted,” he said. “It’s a big disappointment.”

Skatedaily.net., one of the nation’s largest online sites dedicated to skateboard news, posted a story on the controversy Wednesday. A Facebook page created last week by opponents of the design has nearly 800 members, although most appear to live outside of Maine.

City officials said the process has been an open one and that the final design is based on a concept known as the “crop circle,” which won an online poll sponsored by the Portland Phoenix in 2008.

Officials say the park — which will replace the rundown park on Marginal Way that was removed five years ago — is long overdue and that construction will move forward.

City Councilor David Marshall, who chairs a city committee working on the skate park, said opponents have spread inaccurate information about the design of the park and the process.

“I am very concerned the misinformation being floated out in the public will affect the outcome of the skate park,” he said. “It’s time to get the facts straight and finish the project.”

Opponents say that the results from the online poll were a poor indicator of people’s preferences because it was open to people not involved in the sport and that participants could have voted as often as they wanted.

The most vocal opponent has been Tom Noble, a local skate park designer who had worked as a subcontractor for the city in the early design phase.

Although the city adopted some of his ideas, it rejected Noble’s proposal to build the park and awarded the job to a competitor.

Noble said that skaters were excited when the winning bidder, Hardcore Shotcrete Skateparks Inc., presented an option of a larger rectangular plaza known as the “M design,” because it had large steel letter “M” in the middle.

But instead of going ahead with that design, he said, city officials decided to allow the company to build a much smaller park for the same amount of money.

The process was unfair to other bidders and resulted in a park that cost taxpayers more than it should have, he said. It also failed to please the target audience.

“It’s simply that kids I’ve spoken to don’t like it,” he said.

Hardcore’s original proposal was between 12,000 and 14,000 square feet, and the final design chosen by the city is between 9,000 and 10,000 square feet, said Sally DeLuca, division manager for the city’s Recreation and Facilities Management Department.

DeLuca said the original crop circle design didn’t have many “elements,” which are concrete or steel objects that riders do tricks on. Hardcore said it could add elements, but it would cost more money than the city had budgeted for the project.

She said the skate park selection committee concluded that a somewhat smaller park with more elements would be more fun, she said.

In addition, the committee wanted to preserve the crop circle design, which had been highly publicized.

“From the moment we started, we have had teenagers involved,” DeLuca said. “Everything we did — from the formation of the committee to raising money to build it — involved teenagers who were representatives of their peers.”

One of those committee members, Rocco Didonato, 17, a BMX rider, said that both skateboarders and bike riders are going to enjoy the park when it’s finished. He said he is frustrated by misinformation circulating in the skateboard community

“Nobody knows what’s going on,” he said.

Eli Cayer, a 36-year-old skateboarder who also served on the committee, said that skateboarders will forget about the controversy once they see how much fun it is.

“They will forget about it and focus on the moment, which is what skateboarding is all about,” he said.

 

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at

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