Organizer hopes to breathe new life into Janesville skatepark effort

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December 16, 2009
— The man behind the drive for a Janesville skatepark said his seven-year effort is back to square one because the city continues to waffle on a location.

On Monday, the city council with a 5-1 vote promised to give the park $50,000 if Streich raises $250,000 by Dec. 31, 2010.

Ironically, the council Monday night referred the proposed location in Palmer Park back to the leisure services committee.

The council in 2005 overruled the leisure service committee and chose Palmer Park as the site. The leisure services committee had spent months studying the question before recommending the skatepark be placed across from Lions Beach. At the time, Streich pushed for the Palmer Park location, and the council agreed.

The chairman of the leisure committee was so angered by the council’s decision in 2005 that he resigned, saying his time was better spent at home with his family.

Since then, Streich has raised about $26,000. A park would cost between $300,000 and $400,000.

In 2007, former council member Amy Loasching suggested a new site on Jackson Street near the batting cages. She thought the city could get federal funding because it is in a targeted area.

“I’m convinced there was an undercurrent (against the Palmer Park site) from Day One,” Streich said Tuesday, noting that nearby residents campaigned against the site.

Streich told council members Monday that although he doesn’t think fundraising will be easy, he could raise $250,000 if the city makes a solid decision on a location.

City Manager Eric Levitt agreed that potential donors would want to know where a facility would be placed.

Although Streich in the past was adamant in his support of Palmer Park, he said he is now open to any site.

“A skatepark someplace is better than a skatepark no place,” he said.

“Just give me some idea you guys are behind it,” Streich said. “I’m open to anything to get this off the standstill.”

Councilman Tom McDonald said Beloit’s skatepark is near a fire station and wondered if a skatepark could be built at the site of the current ice arena on Beloit Avenue if a new fire station is built there.

“Maybe that would save some costs if done in unison,” he said.

McDonald said he doesn’t favor a Palmer Park site because the park already is crowded.

Councilman Yuri Rashkin wondered if a $50,000 commitment from the city is enough.

Streich vowed to raise the needed money if the city gives him support. He estimates costs would total less than $200,000 because residents are willing to make in-kind donations.

Bill Truman was the sole no vote on Monday. Frank Perrotto was absent.

Truman disagreed with Streich, saying the council has shown plenty of support in the past.

He said he still is angry about Streich’s reaction about the Jackson Street site in the Fourth Ward.

Streich opposed that site because he said it had problems with crime, was near taverns and had sexual predators living nearby.

Truman said taverns are located near the Palmer Park site and sexual predators probably live nearby, as well. He still prefers the Jackson Street location.

“You mention the Fourth Ward like it’s the baddest place in the city,” said Truman, who lives there. “I don’t have the problems you think the kids are going to have … We don’t have rapes, robberies. You hit a nerve with me.”

Streich said Tuesday he hoped the leisure services committee would address the location as quickly as possible because he now has a deadline.

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