Finding a location for a proposed skatepark in Merrill is back in the hands of the city’s Park & Recreation Commission.
In December, the commission had recommended locating the skatepark on a current parking lot between East Main Street and the Wisconsin River. However, the city’s Board of Public Works, at its Jan. 25 meeting, referred the matter back to the Park & Rec Commission, along with a statement that the board does not approved of that proposed location.
Next Wednesday, the Park and Recreation Commission will reconsider its remaining options for locating the skatepark. The commission had removed a number of other proposed locations at its December meeting. Removed from the list of possibilities were Stange’s Park, Streeter Square, the Merrill Festival Grounds, the American Legion site adjacent to Kitchenette Park and the ice rink site adjacent to Pine Crest Nursing Home.
Mayor Bill Bialecki said Stange’s Park would be better used for reservations, similar to Kitchenette Park. Streeter Square was removed due to a lack of parking and the proximity to a residential neighborhood. Lincoln County was not interested in the skatepark being located on their property at the ice rink. And, City Administrator Dave Johnson said there wouldn’t be room for the skatepark at the Festival Grounds. He added that it will be at least two years before anything can be done at the American Legion site.
The commission then settled unanimously on the municipal parking lot site.
The site drew objections from downtown business owners. At the December Common Council meeting, downtown business owner Trina Johnson said she was not comfortable with that location for the skatepark. Downtown business owners weren’t even aware that site was under consideration, she added.
“Anyone I’ve talked to in the downtown area didn’t even have a clue,” she said. “We’re not comfortable with that whatsoever.”
The parking space would be needed, she said, if someone does invest in the currently vacant portion of the former Thelma’s building.
“We want to plan for growth in the downtown,” Johnson said.
Merrill resident Heather O’Neill, who is spearheading efforts to build a new skatepark, has filed for non-profit status for the “Friends of the Merrill Skatepark” to raise funds for the project.