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Residents raising funds for Imperial Beach skate park

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Imperial Beach resident Emily Young is part of a community group called IB4Skate Park, which is actively canvassing for donations to build a skate park in 2009. The county of San Diego and the city have already contributed funds.

Young is also the director of environment analysis and strategy at the San Diego Foundation, a nonprofit organization and the mother of two boys aged 10 and 12, both avid skateboarders and surfers.

"When the water is polluted, skate boarding is an ideal alternative to surfing," she said.

The beaches in the city of Imperial Beach are often closed because of sewage that comes from Mexico, Young explained, since the mesas here are the last boundary and the city is right across from Tijuana.

"We are heavily affected by the urban growth of Tijuana and their inadequate infrastructure," Young said. Tijuana has a lot of squatter settlements without proper sewage systems. The sewage drains into canyons and then makes its way to the ocean and ultimately to the beaches -- and much of it is untreated.

Young views the skate park a necessity, to give the city's youth a safe, healthy place to expend energy and have fun.

"We have poverty, five different gangs and high rates of obesity. We see the skate park as one true way to offer the kids an outlet to get out of the house. We believe it will give them a better option to spend time," Young said.

These beliefs brought concerned residents together and they formed IB4Skate Park, with the common interest of creating a quality family-friendly city.

"There aren't a lot of things to do for kids in Imperial Beach and with water pollution, surfing is often not an option. So we see the skate park as a fun way to hang out with friends," Young said.

Skate parks have proliferated across the country and have become real magnets for children and families. In the past, the Imperial Beach did have an indoor skate park, which was later moved outdoors, so that the space could be better utilized for other indoor sports.

The skate park covered about 1,500 square feet. When the weather affected the ramps, the city deemed it unsafe and closed it down about three years ago. Around the same time, city officials began looking into building a permanent skate park.

The city hired an outside consultant called Site Design Group of Carlsbad, which has designed many skate parks across the country, to assess various potential locations and give the city a cost estimate and schematics for parks of various sizes.

The company presented its report in January, and a 5,000-square-foot lot located within the city's Sports Park Recreation Center was chosen as the best option.

The criteria they used to assess the potential of each location included the site's proximity to the bus route, accessibility for children and youth, the distance from residential neighborhoods and parks, and access to bathrooms and water fountains, according to Tom Ritter, assistant city manager of the city of Imperial Beach.

"Funding will be wrapped up by December this year. The committee would like to have the park built by the summer of 2009, which is a pretty aggressive schedule. It is doable, but it hinges on how quickly the funding is secured," said Ritter, who oversees the areas of personnel, human resources, recreation, risk management and special projects for the city.

The county of San Diego has contributed $100,000; the city of Imperial Beach has contributed $15,000 plus the land; and corporate donations from EDCO and Cox amounted to $6,000, Ritter said. Including other individual donations, the community group and the city has raised about $122,000 to date. The total amount needed is $250,000, which leaves $128,000 to be raised by year end.

"We're going to hire a designer, get Council approval, then call for bids in 2009," said Ritter. The Skate Park will be located on Imperial beach Boulevard, within the Sports Park.

The community group is working in partnership with the city. Young was full of praise for Ritter and his colleagues at the city, for their support. The group has about a dozen people actively involved in fundraising, corporate outreach and recruiting new volunteers.

"Greg Cox, the county supervisor for South County, approved a contribution of $50,000 initially, in January. Our group went back in March this year and appealed for more money and he allotted an additional $50,000," Young said.

Once the group gets closer to the goal, the city will initiate the process of speaking with design firms and contractors. The $250,000 amount will cover both design and construction. The volunteer group and the citizens will have a say in the final design, according to Young. Earlier this year, the public was invited to an open forum meeting to give their input.

Nagappan is a San Diego-based freelance business writer.

Related Link: www.cityofib.com

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