The quest for building a destination skatepark in Hamilton took a big step forward Thursday with tentative approval for a land exchange between Ravalli County and the city of Hamilton.
The Ravalli County Commission unanimously approved a memorandum of agreement contingent on a legal review. The agreement calls for the county to donate about a half-acre of land at the fairgrounds to the city for the skatepark.
The parcel is located on the southeast corner of the county fairgrounds.
Representatives from the nonprofit Circle 13 group met with the commission Thursday morning with hopes of finalizing the agreement, but attorneys from the county and city said it wasn’t quite complete.
The agreement would include a caveat that if the skatepark isn’t built, the land would revert back to the county.
The city will be required to pay the costs of obtaining a certificate of survey, completing an environmental assessment and a title report, as well as any costs associated with subdivision review.
“A lot of thought and a lot of process went into this decision by the county to give up their property,” said Cryss Anderson, a Circle 13 board member. “I appreciate the due diligence of the attorney on a project that’s going to benefit our community for generations.”
Once the county signs the agreement, the nonprofit group can go to work raising the estimated $500,000 needed to build the 13,000-square-foot skatepark.
The idea of building a skatepark in Hamilton has been around for decades, Anderson said. The major hurdle has been securing the right site.
The fairground’s site has a number of positive attributes.
The location is prominent and near a brand new sidewalk built as part of a program to create safe routes to school for students, Anderson said. Law enforcement likes it because of its visibility.
“We really wanted the park to be in a place where it could be seen,” she said. “It’s going to be beautiful. There will be people there all the time. We want it to be a dynamic park for our community.”
Plans call for the park to include restrooms, lighting, landscaping and a paved parking area.
At this point, the actual features of the skatepark haven’t been designed yet.
“That’s very expensive to do,” Anderson said, adding the group wanted to ensure that the property was available before starting that process.
The fact that the location is now owned by the county and located inside city limits created some time-consuming challenges for the nonprofit organization.
There were numerous boards that had to sign off on the idea before it could be brought before the city council and county commission. Many of those boards meet once a month.
“I really think, at this point, the hard part is over,” Anderson said. “The site is really going to happen. At this point, we’re just crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s.”
Anderson said she feels confident that the group will be able to raise the money needed to build the skatepark.
The group just has to look a little ways north to see what’s possible.
A group in Stevensville raised about $200,000 to build a new skatepark last year.
“Stevensville has been very inspirational,” Anderson said. “It was good to see how fast they could do it.”
Anderson said the Hamilton skatepark is expected to be about twice the size of Stevensville’s and not quite as large as Missoula’s.