Hemet council gives green light to seek skateboard park grant for Gibbel Park

Mark LaRue from Stantec, a community development landscape architect company, shows a poster board with photos of common jumps and ollies found in skateboard parks with colored sticker dots placed by Hemet skateboarders showing what they would like built in a proposed skateboard park in the city. The poster was shown at the Hemet City Council meeting, Tuesday, Aug. 13. Tony Ault photo

A workshop on the feasibility of the city to build a skateboard park and seek funding for the project was unanimously approved by the Hemet City Council Tuesday, Aug. 13.

The workshop brought a large contingent of skateboarders, skateboard park supporters and others to the council chambers, each vying for an opportunity to speak in favor of the action.

The council and staff have spent several years evaluating the feasibility of building the skateboard park in an underused section of Gibbel Park. Funding for the park was always an issue, councilmember said, even with a strong public desire for the project. A State Plaza Task Force Committee was formed by the council with citizens in an attempt to bring the project, dubbed “The Gibbel Park Project,” to fruition.

The city contracted with Stantec, a community development landscape architect company, to design and explore the public’s need, their priorities and potential funding for the skateboard park. Stantec architect Mark LaRue gave a presentation of their findings Tuesday and offered a funding source possibility from the Statewide Park Development and Community Revitalization Program Grant Program.

LaRue presented two charts showing sketches of how the skate park might look, designed with the public’s input on desired structures which were gleaned from several public meetings with local skateboard advocates. He also presented the council with a SPP Grant funding application for $1.965 million which the city could submit. The SPP Grant is funded under Proposition 68 which was passed by the voters June 5, 2018, and will distribute $650,275,000 for eligible park projects in disadvantaged communities. The funding is being issued in multiple rounds with the third round coming up. The city could apply for funds for the skateboard park project, according to Stantec.

Residents favoring the project took the podium to voice their support for the city to apply for the grant and to build the park.

Shelly Abbott, a local business woman, spoke about her disabled son who found skateboarding to be something he could do and helps him overcome his disability.

“It (the sport) helps you accept who you are,” she said, urging the council to apply for the grant.

Chuck Sorenson, a longtime skateboarder and a community leader, also urged the council to apply for the grant and said he believed it would keep a number of homeless away from the area that are frequenting it. Many others, including a number of teenagers and children, spoke for the project as well.

Following the public comment session, the council did not take long to vote 5-0 in favor of Interim City Manager Chris Lopez filling out the grant application and sending it in.

In the regular session, the council turned their attention to a recommended action to declare an urgency 45-day moratorium on the cultivation of industrial help in the city by “Established Agricultural Research Institutions” and others within the city boundaries.

The council learned that hemp cultivation, which produces an agricultural product different from marijuana with only small amounts of the mind-alternating THC, has many uses like burlap bags, clothing and rope. Yet, because hemp plants do have some THC and looks similar to marijuana plants, it must be tested for the levels of THC in the crops.

They also learned the Riverside County Agricultural Commission has received applications from four hemp farmers to grow hemp in within the city limits.

The reason for the moratorium was outlined by Lopez who said, “There are no permanent and adequate California or federal regulations setting requirements or standards for cultivation, product purity, safety, potency and testing cannabinoid content or environmental impacts or other safeguards to protect the health of consumers within the California regulated cannabis marketplace.”

Hemet joined a number of other southwest Riverside County cities, including San Jacinto, who have also passed 45-day moratorium on the cultivation of hemp until the new testing regulations are created.

They also announced that city crews will be out in the coming weeks working to refit the older streetlight bulbs with new energy saving and brighter LED bulbs on the utility poles the city now owns.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.