WEST MILTON — To have or not to have the skate park? That is the pressing question.
West Milton Parks Board hosted a public forum Feb. 18 to help develop a master plan for the new Old School Park.
“Everything is just an idea — this is just a conversation,” municipal manager Matt Kline said, noting that nothing has been set in stone except the location itself.
The 7.6-acre site is located where the Milton-Union Elementary and Milton-Union Middle buildings used to stand. The city has leased that area from the school for $1 per year for 20 years. Most of the residents that came to the meeting live within a block of the park radius.
In October, the name Old School Park was chosen from six other candidates through community vote. A total of 2,247 votes were cast, with Old School garnering 687 of them. Since then, the parks board has hired Jacyn Design Group and actively developing a park blueprint.
Two representatives from Jacyn presented three different park layouts at the meeting Tuesday, using ideas taken from several brainstorming sessions with parks board members. Each of the layouts included a butterfly garden, playground area, horseshoes, cornhole, splash pad with chutes of water, 8-9-foot feet rock climbing wall and shelters. Two of the layouts showed a dog park.
The climbing wall and splash pad were both popular items among the attendees, along with the walkway that went around the borders and throughout the park.
Some concerns brought up by the residents were amount of noise and light (Jacyn representative Cindy Driskell said the lighting would be restricted to cover only the area of the park); upkeep of the park (Kline said the city staff would be responsible for maintenance); and a suggestion for more green space.
What garnered the most conversation, though, was the skate park, BMX track and graffitti wall that was also present in each layout.
“I’m glad for the park, but not happy with some of the things I see, like the skate park,” resident Doug Dafoe said. “Is that really what we want for a focal point?”
Dafoe noted that skate parks, like the one in Piqua, cause a problem for the neighbors. He cited language, criminal behavior, and vandalism as problems. Resident Tracey Tracy said the skate park would bring down property values. Resident Jim Jackson pulled no punches either.
“I’m totally against the skate park,” he said.
“I want this to be a positive experience for Milton and don’t want to come back in five years and say ‘see, I told you so’,” Dafoe said.
Driskell noted that the skate park was designed in a “plaza/streetscape” style to garner to a younger, more docile crowd.
“If you have the coolest halfpipe around, you’re going to get those who want that experience,” Driskell said, pointing out that the skate park layout does not include vert ramps and halfpipes.
She also noted that the grafitti wall would be facing the skate area, and encouraged using it as an art project or spirit wall for art classes and sports teams. Kline said for both the wall and the skate park, he would suggest a “three strikes and you’re out” policy.
“We can get a backhoe and tear it down,” Kline said for if the skaters kept misusing the area.
Not everyone present at the meeting was against the skate park, though.
“I think (the skate area) could be really cool,” Sarah Copp said, adding “I love the BMX track.”
Parks board member Erin Coates noted that the BMX track will also lower the age group at the skate park and ensure more parents will be around the area. She said her 4 year old is going to love riding his bike on the track.
Streets superintendent Ben Herron pointed out that kids are already skating (the popular skateboard area right now is the bank parking lots), and the park would give them a specific place to go.
“I know most of the kids in West Milton, and they will be there (Old School Park) with skateboards,” Herron said. “I don’t think we have a right as adults to tell them they can’t be at the park at all. So give them a space where they can skateboard.”
Resident John Offenbacker wasn’t excited about the idea of a skate park, but saw how it could be useful.
“I don’t know what else you could do to attract the (13-14-year-old age group),” he said. “If it’s monitored and certain behavior is expected, word gets around.”
Other facets of the suggested layouts included:
• A main entrance at the Wright/Spring streets corner, with a smaller muted entrance off of Jay/Wright streets. A possible memorial will be at the smaller entrance.
• Pedestrian-scale or ground lighting on the walkways.
• One restroom building. There is a possibility of a facade surrounding the restrooms to resemble a one-room schoolhouse.
• Benches and 18-20-inch seating walls throughout the park. Girl Scout troops 31024 and 30101, led by Joy Beetley, have already committed to purchasing six benches as part of a community service project.
• Seating area along the practice football field on the Wright Street side.
The goal of the board is to have a master plan to present to the community by April 8. The board and village is still soliciting feedback. Call (937) 698-1500 or stop by the village office at 701 S. Miami St. and speak to Matt Kline, Ann Garner or Ben Herron to offer your input.