The city of Gulfport recently applied for a $62,500 grant provided by the land and water conservation fund to relocate the skate park in Tomlinson Park. With the grant, the city would match the $62,500, totaling to $125,000 to move the skate park to the Gulfport Recreation Center.
“It can be better managed there by recreation staff,” City Manager Jim O’Reilly said when asked why the skate park would potentially be moved to the Recreation Center. O’Reilly added that it would also be near other recreation activities, which will be beneficial to all.
The next question is: What’s to be done with the space left at Tomlinson Park?
This was on the minds of everyone at the town hall meeting held by Ward 4 Councilman Michael Fridovich.
“We have to re-create some amenities to fill this void,” Fridovich said.
Roughly 30 people joined the councilman and City Manager Jim O’Reilly at the 49th Street Neighborhood Center on Wednesday, March 23 and offered numerous suggestions ranging from tables to play games under a covered pavilion, to a Japanese tea garden.
According to O’Reilly, the $125,000 grant is only for the relocation of the skate park, but the improvements to Tomlinson Park – which also includes improvements to the playground and a rock-climbing wall – would come out of the BP settlement money. So far, the city has set aside $250,000 for the park improvements.
“We’re trying to build within that program,” O’Reilly said.
According to O’Reilly, the initial plans included high-end workout equipment to fill the space left by the skate park, which is roughly the size of two tennis courts. Nearly half of the residents at the meeting agreed with that idea. Many did not.
Gulfport resident April Thanos suggested that if the new skate park at the Recreation Center is going to take up the outdoor basketball courts, as is proposed, then the city should add basketball courts in Tomlinson Park. The city has stated that if the skate park replaces the outdoor courts, they plan to make the indoor courts more accessible.
Other suggestions by residents for the Tomlinson Park site included tennis courts (which occupied the space before it became a skate park; at that time, the courts were little-used), a dog park, a wading pool or green space.
No official plan has been put into place yet, according to Fridovich.
“This isn’t going to happen tomorrow morning, or tomorrow night,” Fridovich said. “This is going to be a longer process than usual.”
Concerns over the future of a Gulfport skate park still linger. According to O’Reilly, if the grant is not accepted for relocation, the skate park’s existence will be in limbo.
This does not sit well with Nick Nicks, who attended the meeting representing the St. Pete Skatepark Alliance, a group pushing for the creation of “a state-of-the-art regional skatepark in downtown St. Petersburg,” according to their Facbook page.
Nicks, a resident of Gulfport, thinks it’s important to educate other residents about those who skate.
“A lot more people are skateboarding than most people realize,” Nicks, 41, said. “It’s men, women, boys, girls, all ethnicities.”
Nicks states that he’s afraid that if the city doesn’t get the grant, the skate park is gone for good. Also, he is concerned about the reaction from Ward 1 residents, who live near the skate park’s proposed new site. He says educating people that skating can be for everyone and that there is no need to police those who wish to use the skate park is the key.
“It’s just like a playground or anything else,” Nicks said. “You don’t need a waiver to use a city-owned basketball court.”
Fridovich announced that he will hold another town hall meeting once more plans are in place for the park.