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Meeting Tuesday to give neighbors more information



While some Chillicotheans rejoiced last week about the Chillicothe Skate Park coming to fruition, others are not as jubilant.



Thirty-three neighbors around the to-be skate park site signed a petition stating that they felt Chillicothe Bible Church made a “poor decision” in leasing a section of its property, at the corner of Moffitt and Sixth streets, to the Chillicothe Park District.


Meeting Tuesday to give neighbors more information

While some Chillicotheans rejoiced last week about the Chillicothe Skate Park coming to fruition, others are not as jubilant.

Thirty-three neighbors around the to-be skate park site signed a petition stating that they felt Chillicothe Bible Church made a “poor decision” in leasing a section of its property, at the corner of Moffitt and Sixth streets, to the Chillicothe Park District.

The petition, which was delivered to the church, park district and city of Chillicothe, gave reasons for not wanting the skate park due to concerns of a decrease in the value of their properties, noise hazards and generally not wanting the park in their frontyards.

The church and its property used to be North School, with grassy areas where a baseball diamond and playground were located.

The church approved the measure by a 41-2 vote one week ago Sunday.

The 20-year lease agreement will cost the park district $20 per year.

Due to neighbors expressing concerns, the Chillicothe Park District is hosting an informational meeting and a question-and-answer period about the project at 5 p.m. Tuesday (March 30) at Shore Acres Clubhouse.

A full presentation about the project, including its background, is planned, along with a question-and-answer period.

Neighbor Carol Aaron, whose home is on the corner of Wilmot and Sixth streets, said she is not aware of any neighbor being in favor of the project, except for one woman whose husband is not in favor of the park’s location.

“This is not a community park ... It will be almost for boys entirely,” said Aaron.

She said the park should be located away from residences.

“This skate park is a great idea, but not in a residential area,” said Aaron.

Kevin Yates, director of parks and recreation, said the feedback he has received from residents contained misinformation about the rules, and, according to the information he has found, studies do not show what the residents fear.

Yates said he could not find any information about skate parks lowering property values around them.

Additionally, he said, the ambient noise from the portable skateboard parks is the equivalent to a lawnmower operating about 150 feet away.

Youth pastor Jim Schultz said he talked to as many direct neighbors, those whose properties touch the area or are across the street, as he could about three weeks before the congregation’s vote. He left a letter for those who were not home.

“Before the vote, no one asked about rule enforcement or parking,” said Schultz.

Yates said six homes border the property, and one is abandoned and foreclosed.

“If these concerns were made then, it would be easier to ease their concerns,” said Yates.
Schultz said he was confused by those who said they were in favor when he talked to them, but then signed the petition.

But Yates did have strong words for those who will take the rules of the park lightly.

“If rules are not followed, and the park is not kept up to our standards, then it’s going to be closed.” He added that the park could then be re-opened a week or two later, and if park users do not follow the rules, it will be closed again.

He said that kind of stance has been taken at other skateboard parks, including Pekin, which is very strict on the use of helmets and pads.

“We believe the majority of people in Chillicothe support this project,” said Yates.

Residents also voiced parking concerns.

Yates said he expects opening day, which is set for Memorial Day weekend, to be crowded. But, the majority of skateboarders, he said, are those ages 8 to 15 and do not drive.

“We don’t anticipate to have 20 kids there every day,” said Yates, who expects the busy times to be summer and fall, and evenings during the school year.

“I think they are heavily over-estimating the use of the park.”

“Parking is not something we’re terribly concerned about,” said Yates, adding that even on nice days at Pekin’s skate park, only five to six cars were parked there.

Litter is another concern, but Yates said all park district facilities have trash receptacles, and officials hold all the parks to a high standard.

“We want to have the nicest-looking yard in the neighborhood,” said Yates. To do that, he said, each park is checked on in the morning to get it ready for the day.
 
At the council meeting
The neighbors told the Chillicothe City Council that they felt the decision was rushed.

Resident Harry Burdick, 1529 Sixth St., did the majority of the talking for the residents.

He said neighbors felt like there should have been a meeting about the proposed location.

He, along with others, said it will be an unsupervised park.

“Can’t you imagine what’s going to happen if somebody isn’t there to oversee it? You know, at least part of the time.”

He also asked about restrooms, which seemed unclear if the church would allow skaters to use their facilities when the church was open.

Also unclear to the neighbors was the height of the fence going around the equipment, which Yates said, after the meeting, will be 4 feet.

Burdick also said neighbors want a curfew, since sunset can be late in the summer months.

Mayor Troy Childers Sr. said while the city does not have jurisdiction over the area, he would attend the April 10 park board meeting and help address residents’ concerns.

Jeff Streitmatter, of 1618 N. Sixth, said when the skate park is built, he will have a direct view from his living room window.

He also said he has a 4-year-old daughter, and is concerned with a big group of skaters, what the likelihood of illegal drugs being present at the park, which, essentially, he said, is at the end of his driveway.

“Am I going to contain her to the frontyard and say, ‘You can’t go out of the frontyard,’ you know, especially if it’s unsupervised?” said Streitmatter, who also mentioned property value, parking and more.

Resident Paul Aaron said the idea of residents complaining about rule breakers is “ludicrous.”

“If the church is so hellbent on having it on their property, they can put it up in front where they’ve got the parking lot right next to it,” adding the skate park  should be at Shore Acres Park.

Alderwoman Judy Cantwell also asked if the skate park could be located on another part of the church property, such as the front.

Yates said Tuesday morning that option is not available.

David Eckhoff, of 509 Moffitt St., said he agreed that a skate park is needed in Chillicothe, but disagrees with the location.

“I’m not quite sure why this location is so much better than, let’s say, the Moffitt Park location, when there are so many people against it,” Eckhoff said. Originally, the city planned for land at the front of Moffitt Nature Park for the skate park. But after a change of committees raising funds for the park, and aldermen changing their minds about the safety of the location, the project died until the NoWhere 2 Ride Inc. group began fundraising for it and the Chillicothe Park District took up the cause.

“I do hope that we all sit down, or you guys sit down, with the park board, because they’re trying to do something for the good of Chillicothe, not against it,” Childers said at the end of the council meeting.

He told the crowd he did think Chillicothe needs a skate park for the kids.

“But, I do think it needs to be regulated and worked for the good of everyone that’s around … We’re in Chillicothe together, and let’s make it a community effort,” said Childers. “You’re not going to be policing the kids anymore than we are because it’s our kids of Chillicothe.

Click here for the tentative skate park guidelines.