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Planned skate park in Dunedin attracts neighbors' complaints

City officials disagree with claims from residents that the facility will generate noise, traffic and trouble.

City officials will proceed with plans to build the county's first public skate park at Stirling Recreation Center despite objections from neighbors who would rather see it go elsewhere.

"We will do anything we can to mitigate the impact," said City Manager John Lawrence.

A group of residents who live on Frederica Lane, east of the recreation center, came forward last week with concerns about noise, traffic and trouble they think the new park would bring. City officials received a $100,000 state grant to pay for the 10,000-square-foot park, and construction should begin in early September.

"Everyone I know on the street is against this," said Vivian Scott. "The noise and the traffic and the lights will be quite bothersome."

The park would be built in the northwest corner of the recreation center property at 550 Laura Lane. To the north is an industrial park, to the west is the city's wastewater treatment plant. To the east and south is a neighborhood of small houses, duplexes and apartments.

"Put it in your back yard," resident Chip Kalajainen told commissioners last week. "We really don't want it."

Resident Paul Strauley said the skate park will add to the neighborhood's problems.

"The cops are in that area continuously for kids doing things wrong, drugs," Strauley said. "We have enough headaches in the whole section."

The skate park will operate the same hours as the recreation center _ 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and will be staffed by city recreation employees. For now, said Leisure Services Director Harry Gross, the skate park will be closed on the weekends, as is the recreation center.

The city will require residents to purchase a $5 pass for two years and non-residents to buy an annual $55 pass. Gross said city employees will spot check for passes. He said the park will probably attract 12- to 16-year-olds and will have a capacity of about 15.

"We want it to be for city kids but realistically, at least in the beginning, if we're the only city in the area who has a skate park, we're going to get kids from Clearwater and Palm Harbor," Gross said. "When some of the other cities start building their own skate parks, the kids will go to the one closest to them."

Teens who enjoy inline skating, biking and skateboarding have few places to practice their sports. The North Dunedin Baptist Church in Dunedin sets up a course once a week. Many go to Central Skate, a business on Ulmerton Road. Largo is also working on plans for a public skate park.

Sean Scott, a lawyer who lives on Frederica Lane, said the skate park would be more appropriate in Highlander Park, where the city has a swimming pool and Little League fields.

"They're all for the kids having a place to go and skate," Scott said of his neighbors. "The city has the ability to change the location."

City officials, however, disagree with the residents' assumptions about the park. They chose the location because it is centrally located in the city and easily accessible from the Pinellas Trail.

Gross said he would not expect the park to create traffic and parking problems because most of the kids will ride there or be dropped off by a parent. Also, he said, the teens who use the park are athletes, not troublemakers.

"I see it as a positive, and I'm surprised people are coming forward and trying to put a stop to it now," Gross said. "It's as far away from the duplexes and rental houses and other houses as we can get it. I just don't think it's going to be a big impact on the neighborhood."

_ Dunedin reporter Deborah O'Neil can be reached at 445-4159 or at