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Plans for skate park, playground in Niagara Falls seek go-ahead from City Council

NIAGARA FALLS – After nearly two years of planning and community input, the City Council will be asked to approve plans for a new $494,000 skate park Monday.

The plan is one of two city Community Development park projects that will be discussed at Monday night’s Council meeting.

The other project is a new playground at Hyde Park, which has a projected cost of $190,000.

Both projects would be funded by grants and would not use casino money or general funds.

Community Development Director Seth A. Piccirillo said that if the two projects receive approval from the Council, he hopes for groundbreaking immediately. The skate park could be completed by the end of the summer, he said.

“There have been other parks projects, but these two especially have had a public participation component. We’ve worked with the Youth Bureau and directly with the public to design the facilities that we thought were best for our young people,” Piccirillo said, adding that the city has created a Niagara Falls Skate Park page on Facebook and has held several community planning meetings.

“We have had support from all age groups, including block clubs, because they want to see constructive places for young people,” Piccirillo said.

In fact, the hope is that skateboarders who have been using Old Falls Street in front of the Niagara Falls Conference & Event Center, resulting in damage to concrete benches and planters, will move to the new site.

“They are not wanted there,” Piccirillo said of Old Falls Street. “They don’t have a place that is safe and dedicated to their sport.”

The new skate park would be along Hyde Park Boulevard, south of the John Duke Center parking lot.

The Hyde Park playground would be off Robbins Drive next to the ice pavilion and would replace an older, more isolated playground in the park.

Piccirillo said that both parks are designed to address crime prevention by being open and near the street. Parking lots adjacent to the parks also would allow police patrols to stop by and watch the area intermittently. The accessibility also makes it easier for parents to watch their children.

“We did this two years ago when we redesigned Gill Creek Park. There’s not vandalism when there is visibility,” Piccirillo said.

The $494,000 skate park is funded by a federal grant, as well as a $10,000 Tony Hawk Foundation grant. Hawk is a American professional skateboarder.

Piccirillo said the Hawk grant excited the young people, but also gave them guidelines for engaging the community, especially skaters, in the process.

“We constantly hear there’s not enough stuff for kids, especially older kids, to do, and this (skate park) is something we have wanted in the community for years,” he said.

The playground at Hyde Park is funded by Community Development Block Grants, as well as $47,000 in Niagara Greenway funds and a $15,000 KaBOOM and Dr Pepper Snapple Group competitive grant. It would have five separate pods for different age groups, including for very young children, and a globe-shaped climber in the center.

Piccirillo said city officials want Hyde Park to be a place for everyone to spend the day, from golf to canoeing to new baseball leagues and the new playground. There is also exercise equipment for senior citizens and the recently updated ice pavilion.

“Signature projects, like Hyde Park, are happening in the neighborhoods. It’s happening in the middle of the city. It’s not just about the tourist areas downtown,” Piccirillo said.

“If visitors come, that’s great, but the message is, ‘Residents, this is for you, and you planned it.’ ”