Residents who attended two public meetings had nothing but positive comments about the plan.
Wright City is taking the next steps to add a skate park to the new 62-acre park being developed off Westwoods Road.
The city had two public meetings to hear comments from residents as part of the process of applying for grant money to help pay for the park’s construction. The first was June 13. The second was July 11.
Comments at both meetings were overwhelmingly in favor of the new park.
The park can also be used for roller blades, scooters, bikes, wheelchairs and “anything with wheels,” Justin Fears said. Fears led both public hearings and answered most questions from attendees.
“The outside will actually be a pump track,” Fears said. “That was something we were very adamant about from the beginning.”
Having the pump track will also make the park usable for BMX events and competitions.
A skate park would also give visitors to the new park, which is still planned to have multiple baseball fields, additional things to do.
“You might have a kid that plays T-ball and another one that doesn’t,” Fears told the residents in attendance at the June meeting. “He likes to ride bikes so parents and grandparents can sit in the bleachers and watch a game while the other ones go and skate at the skate park or ride bikes and that sort of thing. And really what it does is it just opens up a lot of options for activities at the park.”
Residents who attended the June meeting emphasized the importance of developing the new park for more than just typical sports fans.
“Neither one of my kids play sports,” one resident said.
And a young girl named Harper had written a letter to her alderman in favor of the park.
The letter said she would love the skate park because “we could make new friends, we could train more and because it is closer to her home, she would have a place to ride her bike,” Andrews read to the crowd.
Harper, who was also in attendance, told Fears she was looking forward to the bike track, and that she could already do a few of the tracks at other parks.
Two skate parks were routinely mentioned during both public hearings, the park at Ozzie’s in O’Fallon and the park in Dardenne Prairie.
Fears said the Wright City park would be more similar to the O’Fallon park.
City officials also said the positive comments and a serious lack of negative comments will keep them “plugging ahead.”
“It’s nice that we haven’t really gotten inundated with that because I thought it was coming,” Fears said.
One negative piece of feedback was discussed at the July 13 public meeting.
“A community concern in the past of skate park development is that it would promote loitering and people gathering with no intention of using the facility,” Heiliger said. She asked how Fears felt about that.
“That’s a large misconception,” Fears said. “And honestly, with the neighboring communities that have skate parks, we’ve seen that’s not really a reality. What it does is it gives people of multiple generations and multiple sport affiliations a place to go.”
Fears also questioned how someone could “loiter” in a park.
“A park is, in my opinion, designed to go and spend time in whatever manner you choose to do that,” he said. “And I don’t think that it’s loitering in a criminal sense. I think it gives people a sense of purpose and a reason to come together and congregate, which is kind of what we need after COVID.
“We need people out of the house. We need kids off of their devices, off of the games and a place to go and be energetic and enjoy the outdoors and do things together and build camaraderie,” Fears added.
City officials said the skate park would be near the front of the park close to Westwoods Road and that security issues would be addressed.
“If there happen to be officers cruising or patrolling, which they usually are right down on Westwood, they’ll be very visible as they pass,” he said.
Fears also said that previous iterations of the skate park plan had it adjacent to the parking lot to keep people from skating or riding bicycles in areas where people would be walking.
“Unless we develop trails or that sort of thing later on, we want to keep those types of activities in the skate park.”
“And then additionally, the other reason we put it here is because the small ball field and the medium ball field will be for younger kids,” Heiliger said. “So for families who come to play ball who have other children … their other kids can be at the skate park and visible to the parents from no matter where they are in this area.
One Wright City resident attended the July public hearing. He said the addition of a skate park would also provide kids with more to do in the city.
“This at least gives kids a place to play, hang out and be safe,” he said.
He also emphasized that the two established Wright City parks, Ruge and Diekroeger, require kids who live north of Interstate 70 have to cross both a busy highway and railroad tracks to get there.
“Even as an adult it’s kind of risky,” the resident said. “So having the park on this side is really nice and just provides a safer way of walking.”
City officials said they would be moving forward with the skate park after the two public hearings.
“The overwhelming response that I’ve gotten is most everybody’s for it,” Andrews said.
About the author: Jason Koch is the editor of The Warren County Record, and covers local news and government for the newspaper. He has won multiple awards from both the Indiana and Illinois APME and from the Illinois Press Association. He can be reached at 636-456-6397 or at email@example.com