It might be wise to rethink skate park fees

The opinion of the News-Press

It can be safely argued that Glendale's streets are not the ideal place for skateboarders, so we were concerned this week to learn that attendance has dropped at Verdugo Skate Park, where new fees were introduced last year.

There's no question that city officials had the right intentions when they approved the stepped-up fees, since the park was on the verge of closing in summer 2012 due to prolonged budget constraints. A majority of park users surveyed that year endorsed the move, so it made sense to impose the fees in order to continue providing a safe place for boarders of all ages to practice their tricks.

Instead of entering the park free, as they had in the past, Glendale youths were asked to pay $3; adults, $4. Non-resident adults, the only segment of the population that previously paid an entry fee, saw that charge jump from $2 to $4 per visit.

According to the city report released by the Parks, Recreation and Community Services, the facility's users ponied up a total of $17,424 between Oct. 1, 2012 and Sept. 30 of this year. The take the year before? A paltry $195. So revenues are decidedly up, something we're loathe to complain about.

On the downside — and we do see this as a potential problem, despite assurances from city officials that it is not — the number of users during the past year plummeted by 49%.

Using the city's statistics, if the number of visits by skateboarders dropped by half to 6,800 visits, then there would have been about 13,600 visits the prior time period.

However, if only $195 was collected Oct. 1, 2011 to Sept. 30 of 2012, it would seem that slightly less than 100 of the 13,600 visits during that period would have been made by nonresident adults.

While it may be difficult to track exactly who visits the skate park, it's obvious that some of patrons who stopped going there from Oct. 1, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2013, must have been youth, whether local or from nearby communities. That means that instead of boarding in a safe environment, they're back rolling around our already dicey streets and sidewalks, putting themselves in danger.

There are health, developmental and social aspects to skateboarding, so there is a benefit to continuing to operate Verdugo Skate Park. But we worry about the city's unintended consequence of charging kids $3 to enter it. It might be wiser to identify another source of revenue, such as a corporate sponsorship, in order to allow those 17 and under — those most likely to be to learning the sport — enter at no charge.

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