It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about Austin’s skate plaza project, and there are two good reasons for that:
1. The original location proved to be incompatible for a large cement-based skate plaza due to extremely poor soil conditions. The site used to be the home of an ancient lake bed and the soil in that area is literally nothing but mush for 60 feet down. It would have cost an extra ½ million dollars to modify the ground before it was capable of supporting a 1 acre plaza and that was too cost prohibitive.
click for full view
2. The major potential donors have taken a “call me when you’re ready to build” approach because no one wants to give large amounts of money to projects that aren’t projects yet.
But after nearly a year of very little progress, things are starting to look up. The city has found a new location with good soil and the skateboard wheels are in motion once again. Neighborhood meetings are taking place, architects are rendering their drawings and the city is talking about the possibility of breaking ground still this fall.
Of course Austin is only being cautiously optimistic. One of the things he’s learned as a member of the Park and Recreation Board is that city projects always come bundled in red tape.
Want to put in a new playground? No problem… just order up one environmental impact study, hold a public hearing, find money in the following year’s budget, present it to the City Council for approval, and WA-LAH!... 18 months later you have yourself a new playground! Now magnify that by a factor of 10 and you have Austin’s skate plaza project.
When Austin was first appointed to the Park and Recreation Board, the parks director told him that hopefully he would see his dream come true by the time his term was up in 3 years. We thought he was joking. He wasn’t.
And speaking of the Park Board...
Those of you who have been following this story know that Austin was elected vice chairman last year. During this time he has served his responsibility well - never missing a meeting and filling in as chair when it was required. Now, in a surprise move on Tuesday, Austin was elected as the new chairman of the board to serve until his term is up next year at this time. Charli and I were quite surprised by this unprecedented vote of confidence.
Below is a video of the very meeting where Austin was elected as chair. I've taken the liberty of editing out several minutes of discussion due to a bit of confusion in the process. Since Austin was already acting as chair that night (because the regular chair's term was up 3 months ago), it became unclear how he should move his own nomination forward, and the parks director had to jump in to help "direct traffic" to keep things moving.
Here's Austin in action as he led the meeting last Tuesday (don't worry, it's only 2 minutes long)
And in the end the St. Cloud Park and Recreation Board now has a new 16 year old chairman. Or should I say chair-teen?
You can also check out this press release from a local radio station.
I'm always a little hesitant to publish these updates because I don't want it to seem like I'm bragging or looking for kudos for Austin or myself. The reason I like to write about his project is because this serves as a great archive medium. Heck, if I wasn't blogging about this period in his life I probably wouldn't have any documentation at all! Plus, several people (besides my family) have asked me to keep publishing updates.
So stay tuned. Our mayor has indicated things are looking good. I can't say exactly what that means at this point but suffice it to say we are optimistic for some serious progress this fall. So please keep your fingers crossed for Austin...
I'd really like to see this plaza built while he's still young enough to use it!