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South Kitsap skate park could break ground next month

In the time that it would have taken hundreds of kids to learn how to drop into a bowl on a skateboard, an untold number of them have likely dropped out.

This week, though, at long last, Kitsap County approved a $740,000 contract to build a South Kitsap skate park that will include a skating bowl and street course, an adjacent trail and landscaping. The money will come from capital funds specifically earmarked for construction and will not impact general fund dollars in the county budget.

In addition to the county funds, the South Kitsap Skate Park Association has so far raised $108,000 toward the project. The group hopes to raise even more money for later phases of the park. Phase 1 is expected to cost $308,000 and could get underway as early as Oct. 1. The county is to pay nearly $200,000 to be combined with the $108,000 raised by the local nonprofit. Commissioner Charlotte Garrido praised the public-private partnership between the county and the association.

"The reason that we're where we are today is because we had such an active skateboard group that actually raised $108,000 toward the park, so there was a lot of enthusiasm and public events to put that kind of money together and they have reminded us from time to time how important it is," Garrido said. "It's a true partnership and that is unique. And we are building more and more partnerships, but this is young people who are working to have something that they believe in and value."

Efforts to bring a skate park to South Kitsap got underway in earnest in 2007. Since that time, there have been countless setbacks, most recently having to do with permit approval.

Sitting in the back of the county commission chambers on Monday night and smiling was Port Orchard resident Ian Wilhelm. He said that he wasn't so much surprised by Monday night's decision, especially since he's been so involved behind the scenes on a day-to-day basis, as he was relieved by the board's decision that was five years in the making.

"It's a huge relief," he said.

Wilhelm and a small group of others have been pushing for the skatepark since the beginning, but things have really gained momentum in the last six months, he said. Wilhelm said he was so excited about the skatepark that he took off early from work to be able to see the commissioners approve the contract.

"Right now, if I'm sitting at home and want to go skateboard, I have to go to Silverdale or Gig Harbor," he said. "That's gas; that's time. If I have 45 minutes, I don't have time to skate and have to find something else to do. But I skateboard, that's what I do. Now, I can go right down the road. I can skate to the skatepark. I can stay in my community where I live and not go somewhere else."

Also in attendance at Monday night's commission meeting was Dave Lewis. He said his now 21-year-old son was 16 when the skatepark project started and the process leading to the commissioners' approval was often frustrating.

"I've seen communities with 1,000 or 500 people with full-blown skateparks and I'm going, 'How long have we been waiting.' I'm just amazed at how long it's taken, but it's finally here," Lewis said.

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