SOUTH PORTLAND ⁠— City officials have narrowed down the list of proposed locations for a city skate park, although due to potential backlash, the sites won’t be released before an Oct. 2 public information meeting.

The meeting, set to take place at 6 p.m. at the South Portland Community Center at 21 Nelson Road, will go over the logistics of building a park and give residents a chance to learn more about the sites being considered.

A petition with 577 signatures requesting a that a new skate park was submitted to City Hall by middle school student John Emmons in 2017. An ad hoc Stake Park Advisory Committee conducted feasibility studies earlier this year for sites at Mahoney Middle School, two near South Portland High School and on land behind the Cash Corner fire station off Main Street.

In July, committee members unanimously eliminated the Cash Corner site from contention due to safety concerns. Mahoney Middle School was also ruled out because the school didn’t want the skate park on their property.

Legere Park on Waterman Drive, which scored highest in the committee’s evaluation, will not be considered, although city Recreation Operations Manager Anthony Johnson wouldn’t clarify why. One of the high school sites, near athletic fields, tennis courts and the South Portland Church of the Nazarene, was never considered by the committee.

Board officials also briefly considered putting the skate park on the corner of the empty parking lot acreage next to the mall, but due to issues with liability, the park must be located on city-owned property.

Johnson said he wasn’t willing to provide the updated list of the top four locations under consideration because he wants residents to come to the meeting and hear for themselves.

In the past, Johnson said, he’s found that providing the information prior to discussing it in person has led to misunderstandings and miscommunication among residents.

“A final decision can’t be made until council has stamped their approval, but when we tell people proposed locations ahead of time we get complete bombardment before a decision is even made,” he said. “I’m skeptical about putting any further information about there because nothing is set in stone.”

The 10 members of the ad hoc committee include Johnson and Councilor Kate Lewis.

“This meeting is a good one for the public to understand what the next steps of the process are, to weigh on design elements,” Lewis said. “We had an initial meeting in spring 2018 to get early input on what the public wants to see in a skate park, but some things have changed since then.”

According to Lewis, Pillar Design Studios, a firm based in Chandler, Arizona that specializes in action sports, has been chosen to design the skate park. Pillar Design will also conduct a feasibility study on the sites now being considered, she said.

The work will come at a cost estimated at up to $40,000, Johnson said. Funding will be provided by a $15,000 Community Development Block Grant and by using $25,000 in capital improvement funds.

Johnson said the firm will come to South Portland during the second week of October to look at the sites under consideration, compile information and present what they believe to be the best options. From there, he said, a proposed site will be sent to council at an undetermined date.

The goal is to have the park open by the summer of 2020, when skateboarding is scheduled to be included for the first time in the Summer Olympics.

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