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Hamilton council approves skatepark construction at Claudia Driscoll Park

By Michael Howell

The Hamilton City Council, at its June 20 meeting, approved the construction of a skatepark on the grounds of Claudia Driscoll Park located on 10th street near the hospital. The council is not funding the construction of the park, however, and has given Circle-13 Skate Park, the non-profit organization dedicated to creating a skatepark in Hamilton, 18 months to raise enough funds to break ground on the project.


Efforts to create a skatepark in Hamilton began several years ago and in October of 2014, the Ravalli County Economic Development Authority (RCEDA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the city and with Circle 13 to create the skate park. That MOU is set to expire on October 16, 2017, but also has a provision for renewal. In that agreement, the fairgrounds property was one of four potential sites under consideration. The other sites included Claudia Driscoll Park, the Vestor Wilson Athletic Complex and Kiwanis Park.


The movement really gained ground in February when the City and County Commissioners agreed to allow the construction of the skatepark at the Fairgrounds. That project, which included the installation of restrooms and other amenities, was estimated to cost about $500,000.


As discussions moved forward, however, the advantages of placing the skatepark at Claudia Driscoll Park came into focus and the decision was made to switch locations. The new proposal comes at a reduced cost, projected at about $350,000, since the restroom facilities and other amenities already exist at the park. The skatepark footprint could also be scaled down to make it fit better in the smaller park area.


Fundraising for the project has also taken a big step forward with over 43% of the funds already committed. The project got a big boost from rock music group Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament who has pledged $100,000 to the project. Ament has helped fund the construction of skateparks in both Stevensville and Darby. Another big donor determined to see the skatepark built is Bill Watkins, owner of Discovery Care Centre in Hamilton and The Living Centre in Stevensville, who also helped fund the Stevensville park. He has offered the Circle 13 Skatepark Association a $50,000 matching donation.


Circle 13 Skatepark President Bryan Dufresne made the pitch for placing the skatepark in Claudia Driscoll Park to the Hamilton Committee of the Whole earlier this month. According to the minutes of the meeting, Dufresne told the committee that his board just felt it was a more desirable location.


“The bottom line is you build a park for kids,” said Dufresne. “You build a park for families.” He also provided ten letters from Hamilton downtown businesses all in favor of the site.


Concerns were expressed about noise and how it might affect the use of the bandshell and interfere with other events at the park. Concerns were raised about parking space and hours of use and other issues. But in the end it was decided that all the concerns could be mitigated in some fashion.


“I grew up here when the pool was downtown and boy, that was great,” said Council President Jenny West after the Council approved the site location.


She said it would be a much safer place and kids living in town would not have to cross the highway to get to the skatepark.


To make a tax deductible donation or find out more information, visit the website, Facebook page – Circle 13 – Hamilton Skate Park or send or deliver a check written to Circle 13 to Ravalli County Economic Development Authority, 274 Old Corvallis Road #A, Hamilton MT 59840. RCEDA is handling the construction funds.


In other business at its regular meeting on June 20, the Hamilton City Council approved a $25 increase in court fees at the request of the judge. The council approved using the fees to help pay for a Victim’s Advocate. That position was created in response to the passage of Marsy’s Law, a law providing protection to crime victims (currently on hold).


The council confirmed regular employee status for Deputy Clerk Cynthia Fleming.


The Council passed an ordinance on second reading approving the request of landowner, Ravalli County Council on Aging, to zone its property on Old Corvallis Road to conform to the Professional Services Business (PS) Zone District, Residential High Density District (RH), and Local Business District (B-1) in accordance with the City of Hamilton Municipal Code.


The Council approved a request from Michelle Post, Groovz Studio of Dance, to extend Bandshell/Claudia Driscoll Park hours for a Summer Movie Event Series to accommodate an outdoor movie at the Bandshell. The movie will start after dark and run for two hours. The movie event is planned for July 21 from about 9:30 to 11:30 p.m., definitely ending by midnight.


The Council also directed Special Projects Director Dennis Stranger to move forward with engaging an architect to design the remodel proposed for the Armory Building to accommodate a new Justice Center and put it out to bid. Mayor Jerry Steele noted that soliciting bids did not commit the council to accepting any of the bids.


The Council approved a request from Dominic Farrenkopf, Sapphire Lutheran Homes, for a fireworks display on Friday, June 30 after 10 p.m.


At a special meeting held on June 27, the Council approved a resolution relating to its $1.35 million general obligation bonds, fixing the form and details, making covenants with respect thereto, authorizing the execution and delivery and levying the taxes for the payment thereof.

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