Some businesses in Yelm oppose plans to put a skate park downtown, saying the space is better used for parking.
The city says there are already several public parking lots available downtown and that a new parking lot will be built to accompany a new community center at Yelm City Park.
The issue came to light at Tuesday’s Yelm City Council meeting when Steve Craig, owner of the Wolf building that houses the Triad Art Theater in downtown Yelm, presented a petition to the city signed by 33 representatives of downtown businesses.
Craig told the council more business owners wanted to sign, but didn’t because of “convenience considerations.”
“There are some very deep and strong feelings on this subject,” Craig said.
The petition states the city proposed locating the skate park at its vacant storage yard without input from downtown businesses and says downtown businesses are “starving for additional public parking that is highly visible and easily accessible.”
The site of the lot is ideal for public parking to serve downtown businesses, Yelm City Park and the Yelm-Tenino Trail, the petition states.
The petition also states the business representatives who signed support a skate park, but not at the proposed location.
Yelm Mayor Ron Harding said there are three existing public parking lots within the same distance as the proposed skate park. A fourth is proposed to be built with the proposed community center, he said.
“Let me tell you, they are specific to that site and … (the business owners) are aware of the other parking alternatives,” Craig said. “What the city does not seem to be aware of is that there has been no solicitation of business
owner input in this process and I’ll tell you, the natives are restless.”
Harding said the city thoroughly reached out to the public — they reached out to businesses at the Home & Garden show, and sent fliers to every utility customer, including downtown businesses.
Craig said business owners didn’t feel the plan was adequately explained to them, or they wouldn’t have signed the petition. He also said business
owners questioned why the city couldn’t design around the existing skate park.
“There were a number of very hot business owners who do not think you need to tear down one skateboard park and build another,” he said.
“And then you wonder why the community rejected the bond issue (to revamp Yelm City Park) twice.”
“I guess there’s no sense in debating it with you, but I appreciate your comments,” Harding said.
Harding said after the meeting that a parking lot at the site of the proposed skate park wouldn’t be any closer than the two parking lots at Yelm City Hall. Extensive parking will also be added to Yelm City Park for the construction of a community center there, he said. Parking there would be more centrally located to downtown businesses than the site of the new skate park, he said.
There is also a city-owned 23-space parking lot adjacent to the FairPoint building, located at 106 Second St. SE, owned by the city and meant to serve the downtown core.
“What we’ve been doing is educating the downtown businesses of the availability of that parking," he said. “We’re not going to have parking on Main Street beyond what’s already there. There’s just no room for that.”