It is hard to believe that nearly five years have passed since October 2015 when Supervisor Mick Gleason brought the idea of a skate park to the residents of the Kern River Valley.
At that time Gleason along with other Kern County officials agreed to provide the location at Linda Kissack Ball Park. But this location was offered with the condition that Kern Valley residents raise the money to actually build the skate park. Initially, several people and organizations stepped up to the fundraising plate.
Assisting the original volunteer group is California Recreation Foundation (CRF), a 501(c)3 non-profit, which agreed to oversee the project, thus allowing donations to be tax-deductible.
An estimate of the cost obtained from a well-known skate park construction company was $162,000. Since that was nearly five years ago, today’s cost may well have increased. But fundraising results have grown also to where the project now is awaiting the receipt of the final, promised grant which will more than pay for the construction.
Fundraising started immediately with the volunteers holding several yard sales and also raffles which were approved through the non-profit status of CRF by the California Attorney General’s Office. Meanwhile, donation jars were placed in numerous local businesses with nickel-and-dime deposits eventually totaling more than $7,000.00 and adding to the project’s bank account that currently totals over $77,000.
BUT WAIT, there is more. To reduce construction costs, local businesses agreed to donate construction goods and engineering services worth approximately $23,000. The Exchange Club and Mountain View Baptist Church have pledged $1,000 each. The Tony Hawk Foundation awarded the project a $5,000 grant.
And through the continued grant writing efforts of the dedicated volunteers, aided by Supervisor Gleason’s office, a $110,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) has been approved by Kern County and, when received, the construction will begin shortly.
Just when is this “SHORTLY”? Understandably, red tape and unexpected government procedures grind slowly forward. While the project was approved for the $110,000 CDBG nearly a year ago, it subsequently was discovered that the Kissack Park location was partially within the 100-year Erskine Creek floodway. In order to obtain the CDBG funds (which are HUD funds), a formal analysis is necessary showing the exact floodway boundaries since no part of the concrete skate park can be within the floodway.
This analysis was performed on February 28. Then Covid-19 shut down the progress for the next several months. Last week, an announcement was received that the analysis was finally complete and the site is recommended for a 5,553 sq. ft. skate park. However, the analysis was just one of many steps that the County must undertake.
The timeframe provided is as follows (quoted from the County announcement):
- Finish 8 Step (three weeks) – July
- Finish Environmental Determination in Document and Certification (10 days) – end of July
- Circulate Document with State Clearinghouse (Required HUD Step)/Advertise and take Item to Board (45 days) – Mid-September
- HUD must release the Funds (approx. 20 – 25 days after Board Hearing Date-another required HUD step) – October
Assuming that once these involved procedures are completed, with funds received, and at least some of the original volunteers are still living to continue the project, CRF will select a company with wide experience complying with the necessary government requirements.
A skate park designer will be hired and a meeting will be held with all locals who are interested in submitting their suggestions for the final design. When the design is completed, it will be submitted to the County for approval.
After County design approval, the project will be advertised for competitive bidding. An agreement will be entered into with the successful bidder for the long-awaited construction of the George & Darlene Randall Skate Park.
It is expected that construction will not take place until the second quarter of 2021 at the earliest. Upon completion of the skate park, it will be turned over to the County for upkeep and maintenance.