Skate Park Committee sets sights on Streeter Square
Following a unanimous vote by Merrill’s Skate Park Special Committee on Monday, Aug. 20, Streeter Square appears to be the preferred location for a future municipal skate park.
Streeter Square was ranked the second of three ideal skate park locations the committee narrowed down as part of its July 31 meeting. The top choice was the MARC, followed by Ott’s Park as the third.
During the July meeting, Parks and Recreation Director Dan Wendorf spoke in favor of the MARC as a possible site; citing amenities already in place such as parking and restrooms. Wendorf also cited frequent and consistent public use of the facilities already in place at the MARC, such as the ball fields, dog park and the Bierman Family Aquatic Center.
“The MARC is shovel-ready and was specifically developed for recreation,” Wendorf said. “The MARC may not be centrally located but it is pedestrian friendly. We have proven over the last 3 years, that people are comfortable getting to the MARC.
“Once we have a site set, then we can move into the design phase,” Wendorf added.
Committee members spoke in favor of both Streeter Square and the MARC, citing the amount of open space at the MARC as well as the centralized location of Streeter Square. Also in attendance and speaking in favor of Streeter Square were 5th Disrtrict Alderman John VanLieshout and Common Council President/3rd District Alderman Ryan Schwartzman.
“This could be more than just a skate park,” VanLieshout said. “We could make this into more of a community center where multiple things are happening at once. We could add a splash pad and have the playground redone for small kids. With a skate park, we would have something for everyone in the family to go and enjoy together.”
In my mind (Streeter Square is) under-utilized and there is a lot of open space that can be utilized in a different way,” Schwartzman added. “I think a skate park would be great. I know my constituents over there may not all agree with me, but I would back this.”
“Not to undersell Streeter Square, but each park has a purpose,” Wendorf answered. “It’s important for a community to have quiet space, green space and active passage space. Once you over-program something, it’s hard to go back to being a quiet neighborhood. The MARC is used to noise and high action, and has built-in amenities. It’s a one-stop for softball, soccer and going for walks, all in the same spot with plenty of parking. The MARC is a place where high action was meant to be.”
Ultimately, the committee moved forward with a social media poll and online survey to assess public support of prospective sites.
Last Monday, Wendforf advised the committee of the poll and survey results.
Of the 100 survey responses accessed, 63 favored Streeter Square, 19 favored the MARC and 18 favored Ott’s. A total of 286 responses were received, but due to the restrictions by the survey host (SurveyMonkey.com) to see the other 186 responses would have required a yearly subscription of nearly $400.
In discussing feedback from the online poll, Wendorf indicated noise – which could be a side effect of a skate park – is an ongoing concern of residents who reside in the area of Streeter Square. Wendorf indicated the same concern has been expressed by area residents since the most recent initiative for a new skate park began in the summer of 2016.
Committee member Kate Baker, who also resides in the vicinity of Streeter Square, spoke in favor of the site being the committee’s top choice. Baker cited the high visibility of the site, centralized location and the site’s close proximity to the Merrill Police Department.
“There is a stigma about kids using the park,” she stated. “We just have to convince people it will be okay. Streeter Square is a better location due to its central location. I don’t think it will be as bad as some people say it will be.”
Baker further indicated her sentiments of a Streeter Square Skate Park possibly spurring future economic development in the area.
“If it can work for a parade, it can work for a skate park,” stated committee member and Merrill Bible Church pastor Justin Novitski.