County Offers $400K Match for Skatepark

Parks commission grant will boost March 13 fundraiser

On Tuesday night at their regular monthly meeting, the Washtenaw County parks and recreation commission unanimously authorized up to $400,000 in matching funds for a skatepark being developed by the Ann Arbor Skatepark Action Committee (AASAC). The future location of the skateboarding facility is planned for the northeast corner of Veterans Memorial Park on the city’s west side.

Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission

Three of nine parks and recreation commission members for Washtenaw County, who attended Tuesday's meeting. Front to back: Jimmie Maggard, Patricia Scribner and Robert Marans. Obscured is Bob Tetens, director of Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation. (Photos by the writer.)

The county’s parks and recreation program is funded by two separate, dedicated countywide tax levies at 0.25 mill apiece – for capital improvements and maintenance, respectively. The millages are separate from the county’s general operating millage.

The offer of matching funds came with the clear expectation from commissioners at the meeting that the county will be given its due – in terms of signage and participation in the project as it moves forward.

Bob Tetens, director of Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation, spoke at the meeting about the ability of the county to leverage the fundraising efforts of AASAC to achieve an $800,000 skatepark, instead of a $400,000 skatepark. For AASAC’s part, the plan all along was to build an $800,000 skatepark – plus establish a $200,000 endowment for maintenance.

The promised funds from the county will allow AASAC to leverage the match as part of their fundraising efforts. From that point of view, the timing of the county’s decision worked out to AASAC’s advantage. This Saturday, March 13, from noon-6 p.m. Red Belly Boardshop will sponsor The Grinds of March, a benefit for the Ann Arbor Skatepark fund to be held in a warehouse located at 704 Airport Blvd.

The Grinds will feature a pro skating demonstration by Garold Vallie and Andy MacDonald. MacDonald spent his summers in Ann Arbor, growing up skating.

The city of Ann Arbor has so far not offered dollars in support of the skatepark, but has approved use of the site, and struck a memorandum of understanding with AASAC. Ten out of 11 councilmembers also signed a letter dated March 8, 2010, urging the county’s parks and recreation commission to support the skatepark.

County Parks Commission Deliberations on the Skatepark

Discussion of the skatepark item was moved up as the first item for discussion after public commentary, from its original spot under “New Business.” That move meant that AASAC steering committee members Trevor Staples and Jim Reische did not have to wait through three reports, plus five items worth of old business for the commission to deliberate on the skatepark funding.

Bob Tetens, director of Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation, led off discussion by noting that the skatepark committee had contacted the commission numerous times and that Staples and Reische had appeared before the commission at its January 2010 meeting and made a presentation. At the staff level, Tetens said, the skatepark proposal had been considered for over a year and a half.

In October 2009, Tetens was not yet ready to advocate for funding the skatepark [Chronicle coverage: "Skatepark Rolls Towards Design"]:

At this point, Tetens explained, “We don’t have the numbers … We don’t know what ‘it’ is – a $200,000 park or a $2 million park.” Once you have a conceptual design, he said, you have a project you can talk about.

On Tuesday evening, Tetens pointed out that development of the skatepark had progressed beyond the conceptual design phase. [Skatepark designer Wally Hollyday held a design charette on Oct. 18, 2009.] Tetens also noted that the Skatepark Action Committee was well on its way to achieving 501(c)3 nonprofit status.

He observed that the skatepark enjoyed overwhelming support in the community and that the proposed site was situated on a bus route.

Deliberations: Veterans Memorial Park Site

With respect to the siting along a bus route, commissioner Janice Anschuetz noted that previously the commission had talked about building a skatepark out at Rolling Hills, a county park on North Territorial Road. What made the proposed Veterans Memorial Park location better, she said, was that a kid from Ypsilanti would be able to get on a bus and ride it to the skatepark.

Conan Smith – who serves on the parks and recreation commission as a representative of the county board, along with Rolland Sizemore Jr. – declared that he was excited by the skatepark, because it was in his neck of the woods. [Smith represents District 10 in Ann Arbor.] He observed that if you’ve ever had a drink at Knight’s, you might be familiar with the corner of Maple and Dexter-Ann Arbor, where the park is planned. With a stellar park [Veterans Memorial Park] at its heart, Smith said, it would drive mixed-use and mixed-income development in the area.

Deliberations: The County Gets Its Due

One concern shared by commissioners was that the county be appropriately recognized for its role in supporting the skatepark. Rolland Sizemore Jr. wondered: “Do we have any input, or is it Ann Arbor and skateboard people?” Trevor Staples assured Sizemore that up to now there’d been a three-way partnership between the Ann Arbor Skatepark Action Committee, the city of Ann Arbor, and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, but that they wanted to negotiate the participation of a fourth member. “We want it to be a partnership,” concluded Staples.

Commissioner Jimmie Maggard agreed that the county should have “someone on board.”

Sizemore moved an amendment to the resolution, which was accepted as friendly, that stipulated the county’s participation as the project moved forward. After the vote, he suggested that Conan Smith take the position representing the county on the project, but Smith said that county parks planner Jeff Dehring might be a better choice – he was open to discussion on that.

Janice Anschuetz also wanted to make sure the county was recognized, and that it was clear that the skatepark was not just for Ann Arbor – signage at the park would help with that, she said.

Commission chair Robert Marans declared that it would be a countywide facility before calling for the vote, which was unanimous.

Though he supported the resolution, Stephen Solowczuk noted that he’d wished for a bit more forewarning. He noted that a $600,000 allocation for a segment of the Border-to-Border Trail near Dexter meant that they’d be allocating $1 million in one night – they couldn’t have too many nights like that, he warned.

Deliberations: Ann Arbor Support

Commissioners noted the importance of the letter of support that the Ann Arbor city council had sent them, along with a copy of the resolution that the council had passed on Dec. 1, 2008, which approved a memorandum of understanding between the city and the Skatepark Action Committtee. In that resolution, noted Bob Tetens, the “shelf-life” on the city’s land allocation for the skatepark at Veterans Memorial requires that construction begin no later than Jan. 1, 2014.

The letter from city councilmembers mentioned by Tetens and others was dated March 8, 2010. It was forwarded electronically by city administrator Roger Fraser to the county’s parks and recreation commission. In Fraser’s email message, he stated that commissioners would receive a physical copy of the councilmembers’ letter. The electronic version indicates that it will be signed by all councilmembers except for Marcia Higgins (Ward 4). In addition, there’s a space for Scott Rosencrans, who chairs the city’s park advisory commission, to sign the letter. [.txt file of cover letter from Fraser and letter text by councilmembers]

Board Deliberations: Fundraising

During deliberations, commission chair Robert Marans asked how the skatepark advocates planned to raise their $400,000. Jim Reische, fundraising co-chair for AASAC, told the commission he felt that the matching funds would allow them to pursue gifts in the 5-6 figure range – he based that on conversations with prospective donors. He also cited a tremendous grassroots effort, now centered on a social networking fundraising site called crowdrise. [That site indicates $20,000 now raised out of the $1 million goal.]

Reische also told the commission about the Grinds of March fundraiser on Saturday. The revelation that Andy MacDonald would be skating was met with a “You’ve got to be kidding” from Anschuetz.

Grinds of March

Over the last weekend in February, The Chronicle documented photographically some of the ramp construction activity at 704 Airport Blvd. in a warehouse where the Skatepark Action Committee has built up a wooden skateboard ramp for the Grinds of March fundraiser on March 13. [After turning west onto Airport Boulevard off State Street, look north for the large "704" numbering.]

Retired Zingerman's posters will be for sale at the Grinds of March fundraiser.

Steve Risner

Steve Risner jams a board into place with a backhand whack.

Ramp templates

The ribs or the bones of the ramp are called "templates."


Teamwork was key in assembling the ramp.

Tony C. trims a board to fit.

Tony C. trims a board to fit. The taller section of the ramp was an extension to the original design.

Tony C.

You build it, then you can skate it.

John Roos on a skateboard.

Local coffee roaster John Roos took a tentative turn on the ramp. Roos, who sells his Roos Roast coffees at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market and other locations, has developed a Skatepark Blend to support the ramp.

Gregg Iddings gets ready to drop in as John Roos looks on.

Gregg Iddings gets ready to drop in as John Roos looks on. Iddings, a probate court judge in Adrian, is a member of the Skatepark Action steering committee


In the two weeks between ramp construction and the Grinds of March fundraiser, volunteers with the Skatepark Action Committee have been taking advantage of the ramp. The ramp itself will be auctioned off after the event.


Not his first time on a board.


  1. March 10, 2010 at 10:55 am | permalink

    For clarification: Rolling Hills County Park is located at 7660 Stoney Creek Road, Ypsilanti Township not North Territorial Road.

  2. By Dave
    March 10, 2010 at 12:16 pm | permalink

    And to think I was ARRESTED–not just ticketed, but arrested and detained for skateboarding in Ann Arbor in the late 1980′s/early 90′s. I was 14 years old!

    Sounds like something that would happen in a fascist police state. But it happened to me and lots of other kids in Ann Arbor.

  3. By Pete Nowakowski
    March 10, 2010 at 2:33 pm | permalink

    Thanks to everyone who has put so much time and effort into the Ann Arbor Skatepark. This will be a great thing for the region and it’s about time!!

  4. March 10, 2010 at 2:39 pm | permalink

    Awesome news! And I guarantee unlike the underutilized ballparks and basketball courts this facility will be in constant use! Want to see how much excitement this is generating? Come to the Grinds of March this Saturday. [link]

  5. By Jason Gravelle
    March 10, 2010 at 4:40 pm | permalink

    I’m curious… I understand that the building of the park is being funded outsided of Ann Arbor’s budget. But when the park is complete, where is the money coming from the maintain the park?

    More money from the General Fund that the city doesn’t have? The city is looking to reduce the parks they currently have, and now there’s a push to put another on in?

    Interesting style of doing business.

  6. By Dave Askins
    March 10, 2010 at 4:49 pm | permalink

    Re: [5] “… where is the money coming from the maintain the park? More money from the General Fund that the city doesn’t have?”

    From the text of the article:

    For AASAC’s part, the plan all along was to build an $800,000 skatepark – plus establish a $200,000 endowment for maintenance.

    It’s worth noting that while the 80/20 split has been widely reported and was repeated by Tetens at the meeting, according to Trevor Staples, the actual goal is a total of $1 million raised, with $100,000 of that to fund the endowment for maintenance.

  7. By lorie
    March 10, 2010 at 6:59 pm | permalink

    I missed bit bit with Marcia Higgins refusing to the letter, do we know why?

  8. By Tricia
    March 10, 2010 at 10:04 pm | permalink

    Right now, I drive my son and at least one of his friends to Brighton, nearly every Saturday, so they can skate at The Naz (indoor skatepark at Brighton Nazarene Church). In the summer we also visit various other parks, but this Saturday trip is a pretty regular gig. I spend the morning at coffee shops or the library or other Brighton businesses, and often spend money. How nice it will be when they can ride the bus to Vets and our money can stay in Ann Arbor!

  9. By Jessica Rodriguez
    March 10, 2010 at 10:36 pm | permalink

    Woohoo Skate park!!! Glad to see the project gaining serious momentum. I too, was an A2 hoodlum, brazenly skateboarding the then heavily patrolled streets. Never got a ticket or arrested, but I had plenty of friends who did. A city like Ann Arbor is well overdue for a skate park of this caliber.

  10. By SF
    March 10, 2010 at 11:17 pm | permalink

    I support the skatepark. But I also wonder if anyone has info on the development of more dog parks? Ann Arbor falls sadly short of meeting the demand for dog-friendly places.

  11. By David
    March 11, 2010 at 7:13 am | permalink

    Unbelievable!! The county is cutting basic services for those in need yet they are going to fund a new rec facility. The city and county are not able to maintain their existing park/rec facilities. I am glad that the city of Ann Arbor is, for once, showing fiscial restraint by not providing funds.

  12. By Dave Askins
    March 11, 2010 at 8:15 am | permalink

    Re: [11] “Unbelievable!! The county is cutting basic services for those in need yet they are going to fund a new rec facility.”

    From the text of the article:

    The county’s parks and recreation program is funded by two separate, dedicated countywide tax levies at 0.25 mill apiece – for capital improvements and maintenance, respectively. The millages are separate from the county’s general operating millage.

    Voters who are unhappy with the way the county’s parks and recreation commission is allocating those millage funds can communicate their concerns to county parks commissioners, or vote against those dedicated millages when they’re next put on the ballot. However, it’s not an option to use dedicated millage funds for a purpose different from that for which the millage was approved.

  13. By Lisa Dengiz
    March 11, 2010 at 9:16 am | permalink

    Congratulations to the hundreds of tireless, skilled and passionate youth and adult volunteers/supporters of the Skatepark Action Committee and thanks to visionary Bob Tetans and members of the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission for allocating vital matching funds from its existing capital improvements budget. Thanks also to Major Heiftje and Ann Arbor Council for providing space for the Skatepark at Vet’s Park and to Cheryl Elliott and the Ann Arbor Community Foundation for providing fiduciary and fundraising capacity, support and oversight.

    We are fortunate to live in a county that values, honors and works hard to support a safe, free, creative, edgy and dedicated space for our many young- and young at heart-skateboarders.

  14. By Anon-u-Are
    March 11, 2010 at 12:45 pm | permalink

    I’m a fan of the skatepark, but this really doesn’t seem to be the best time to pay for it, nor the best way to pay for it.

    Building a skatepark for kids when county services for the needy are strapped? How is that a good idea?

    And, before somebody points out that there’s two separate millages that pay for county rec. programs and others that pay for county operating services, I understand. But let’s not get lost in the bureaucratic you know what. That doesn’t make the system right.

    Having a dedicated millage for capital expenses is crazy and wasteful. It means the county collects your taxes and then decides how to spend them on one-time purchases. In other parts of the county, municipalities have to figure out what they need, then find a way to pay for them.