PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Advocates of a Portland skate park that’s been on hold for the last 17 years are making a new push for it to move forward.
On Tuesday, park advocates took part in the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Steel Bridge Skatepark. They poured the park’s first concrete and hoped the action would send a message to city councilors, encouraging them to build the park.
Ryan Hashagen, who helped organize Tuesday’s event, said Portland City Council approved the skate park in 2005 — but the plan never came to fruition.
“This plan has languished on the shelves of City Hall for many years while skating has become more and more popular across the city and there’s not enough spaces for people to enjoy,” he said.
Now, supporters are speaking out and say Northwest Portland needs a community space for all levels of skating skills.
Tuesday’s event took place at Northwest 1st Avenue and Northwest Flanders Street. Speakers from the Street Trust, Community in Bowls, Advocates for Portland Skateparks, and others shared their thoughts.
The participants then held a procession to the Steel Bridge where the concrete was laid.
“This is a symbolic groundbreaking. This is a groundbreaking where [we] as skate park advocates are working to create some momentum and raise some awareness to this beautiful plan for a central city skate park,” Hashagen said.
He said the design for the Steel Bridge Skatepark was made by the local firm DAO Architecture. He said the proposed location is easy to access by the MAX train and by bus.
The design illustration shows that the park would be partially covered. This is something important to skater Desi Jefferson who attended the groundbreaking event Tuesday.
“Other sports have covered facilities and skating is one of the sports that is kind of left out in the rain,” she said. “I think we need a lot more options in the city. We have Oaks Park Roller Rink; that’s just one indoor skating option and we definitely need a lot more.”
Skating advocates encourage the city to fund the new park soon, as they anticipate the Burnside Skatepark will be closed during bridge reconstruction.
KOIN 6 News contacted Portland City Councilors to confirm if the plans for the park have been on hold since 2005 and to ask why the park was never built.
Will Howell, communications director for Commissioner Carmen Rubio, was the only one to respond. He said the park was a Portland Parks and Recreation plan and directed KOIN to the parks bureau.
Mark Ross, public information officer for Portland Parks and Recreation confirmed to KOIN that the Steel Bridge was one of the sites recommended to city council for consideration as a possible skate park back in 2008.
He said Portland Parks and Recreation is not opposed to having a skate park at that site and has been prioritizing building skate parks in parts of Portland that don’t yet have skate parks.
“There are noted gaps in East, North, and Southeast Portland currently; and we note that the existing Burnside skatepark is right across the river from the one envisioned at the Steel Bridge,” he wrote in an email to KOIN.
Ross said funding for parks projects is limited and there are many projects vying for the available dollars.
“The cost of this skatepark is likely much higher now than the estimate that was done in 2011,” he said.
Currently, there are about $450 million in park growth needs. Ross said Portland Parks and Recreation is focusing on addressing the most critical repairs and identifying service gaps, with equity at the forefront.
Ross said the bureau is only one of several stakeholders in the effort to create the skate park and it does not manage the Steel Bridge land.
The property belongs to the Portland Bureau of Transportation and the Oregon Department of Transportation. A spokesperson for PBOT told KOIN it is very supportive of the idea to build a skate park under the bridge.
“We look forward to working with Portland Parks & Recreation on the effort as soon they are able to identify funding for the project,” a spokesperson wrote in an email to KOIN.
The city is currently in the design phase of creating three more skate parks, but none of them are located under the Steel Bridge.
Portland Parks and Recreation also has plans to build a smaller “skate spot” at a future park at Southeast 150th Avenue and Southeast Division Street.
Editor’s Note: A previously published version of this article did not list the Oregon Department of Transportation as a partial owner of the property. PBOT contacted KOIN News after publication to clarify that it owns 60% of the land under the Steel Bridge and ODOT owns the other 40%.