Pillar Design Studios created a model of a skate park at High School Park in South Portland. Courtesy Pillar Design Studios

SOUTH PORTLAND — The skate park committee believes that High School Park is the best location for South Portland’s skaters and enthusiasts, and the city council agrees.

On Jan. 2, members of the public and skate park committee asked the city council to approve the location, which is across the street from South Portland High School and the Community Center.

A vote to approve the location which will allow the committee to begin fundraising, is set for Jan. 14.

Anthony Johnson of the Parks, Rec & Waterfront Department, who is the city representative for the committee, said that the project is expected to be 8,000 to 10,000 square feet and would cost $350,000 to $450,000. He expects to break ground by summer of 2021.

The committee received recommendations from Pillar Design Studio, a company that has created skate parks across the country, for the best park locations in the city.

Of the top five recommended locations, Johnson said that High School Park is highly visible, accessible, has existing storm water management that could be linked, a bus stop, is next to high traffic areas, so it will be seen by almost everyone who comes in the city and has restrooms when the Community Center is open.

“There is also a time capsule buried in the park so we could incorporate that history into this park,” he said.

Johnson said that the con of the location would be that residential neighborhoods are on two sides of the park.

The proposed location would be great for children, as they wouldn’t have to rely on parents or buses for a ride, said Mayor Katherine Lewis. She believes that a skate park will benefit the entire city, allowing spectators for the athletes and encouraging physical activity.

One resident and skateboarder, Hunter Johnson, said that he would have loved a skate park next to the high school when he was a student there.

“I think South Portland could use a refreshing community booster,” he said. “A lot of high school kids are trying to figure out what they’d like to do for recreation activities, and I think the High School Park is pretty underused. Right now, I go to college, and I need something do de-stress. I agree with other people who say they need a place to skateboard. It’s a great way to make friends and it’s a great medium to encourage growth and have a lot of fun.”

“I think it’s going to be lovely,” said councilor Sue Henderson. “And I do think with activities in the park, more people come to the park, so it becomes more social and will increase walk-ability in the city.”

Members of the skate park committee and the public spoke in favor of the location, asking the city council to consider the hard work that has already gone into the project.

Rupin Gill, whose wife is on the committee, said that the members are “representing the unrepresented: children of South Portland.”

There has been talk about a skate park for years, he said, as children interested in one grow older and their parents drop the issue.

“It will perpetually be an issue until a group of brave public servants actually decide to work together and take the steps, fund the project,” said Gill. “Overall I think it’s a very good project for the community, children and a high school as a whole.”

Andrew Capelluti, resident and vice-chair of the energy committee, said that he has seen a Pillar Design Studio skate park in Atlanta, GA, and believes that a park in the community would be enjoyed, but he had some concerns about storm water management.

Some of the park’s greenery should also be preserved, said Councilor April Carrichio.

“I’ve given it a lot of thought, and one of the reasons I like this is safety,” she said. “I feel like it’s in a place where there will be enough people around if someone gets hurt. If it’s near the high school, then what that means is that all high school students have equal access. I think this is the ideal location but I also recognize that space is valuable to the neighborhood.”

Because the committee is looking into a good buffer system, Carrichio said, the neighborhood shouldn’t be too disrupted.

Councilor Claude Morgan, who said he was “100 percent in favor of this location,” is in favor of the committee beginning its fundraising process of the project, but he doesn’t want the park to be named after the largest company  or individual donor.

Lewis said she was wary of a company headlining a public park. However, she doesn’t see a problem with a plaque or some signage.

After experts have vetted 20 to 50 locations for a potential park, Lewis said that she’s confident that the skate park committee has found the best possible location.

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