By Zach Hagadone
The public is invited to meet the project team, see ideas and provide feedback on the Travers Park “Concrete Lake” skatepark expansion project Thursday, April 20, with a virtual and in-person event hosted at 5:30 p.m. at Sandpoint City Hall (1123 Lake St.).
This will be the third public meeting on the skatepark expansion — part of the overall $7.8 million James E. Russell Sports Center redevelopment project at the park — with the first dating back to December 2021. Combined, the skatepark and James E. Russell projects are referred to by city planners as Travers Park Phase 1 Renovations.
The second meeting took place in the fall of 2022, incorporating skatepark development firm Dreamland Skateparks, which at the time was contracted under Tualatin, Ore.-based Emerick Construction. Emerick won the $7.8 million design-build contract effective July 2022, which included a $7.5 million gift from the Russell family, a $300,000 budget allocation from the city for the skatepark, as well as a capital improvement project in 2021 for bowl repairs amounting to nearly $28,000.
City staff confirmed to the Reader that the contract with Emerick was terminated in January 2023, though the city has since entered into a direct contract with Dreamland, and will now manage the project — in addition to construction under separate contracts.
Sandpoint City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton told the Reader in a phone interview April 19 that following Emerick’s receipt of the intent to terminate in January, under the terms of the agreement the company refunded the expenses to the city that would have been paid for preliminary work on the contract.
“We retained the subcontractors on the project — the architect [Idaho-based ALC Architecture] as well as Dreamland, so they are contracted directly with us and we went through a process of finding another general contractor who will be heading up these projects.”
City Hall did not provide details for why Emerick’s contract was terminated, and the company did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
The meeting April 20 is intended to share the concept designs for the park and gather community feedback.
According to Sandpoint Parks Planning and Development Manager Maeve Nevins-Lavtar, the first phase of construction at the skatepark will include an expansion of about 5,000 square feet and, while construction was originally scheduled for fall 2023, the timeline has been pushed back to completion in spring 2024.
Nevins-Lavtar said that the Bonner County Skatepark Association has raised approximately $55,000 toward the project and, given the ongoing fundraising effort, “it made sense to wait until the spring of 2024 and see how much money could be raised.
“This is a tremendous opportunity, because the team felt it allowed us to construct a much larger project,” she added. “It also saves the project funds by only having the contractor mobilize to the site once.”
In other words, Nevins-Lavtar said, “If additional funds are realized, then Dreamland can construct more efficiently. …
“[T]he benefits to pushing construction to spring 2024 made sense for all the right reasons,” she added. “Plus, given our unpredictable weather conditions, there was a high chance that Dreamland would have to start in fall and return in spring to finish no matter what — it had nothing to do with the contract change [with Emerick]. And in fact, when the contract changed, it allowed more funds to be added to the budget so that’s a big win for this project.”
The presentation April 20 will include a summary of the history of the Concrete Lake Skatepark, its funding and current budget, introduction of the Dreamland design team and presentation of design concepts, and a report from the Bonner County Skatepark Association about its fundraising efforts.
According to Stapleton, the teams behind the project anticipate having the overall designs for Travers Park — including everything from the James E. Russell Sports Center, skatepark to the play fields, bike tracks and other elements — available for a public meeting that the city will be announcing on Wednesday, May 17, as well as at the council meeting that day.
Meanwhile, she added, “There is a plan that when construction begins this spring on the sports center, the playground will be temporarily relocated to another location at the front end of the park — there will be a playground for the community during construction and there will be a reconstruction in 2024. It is not true that there will be no playground for four years.”
Despite such assurances, residents testified at the April 19 meeting of the City Council that they opposed many of the plans for Travers Park — including lifelong locals for whose father, Frank Travers, the park is named.
“He worked so hard to be a voice in the lives of young children,” said Theresa Stevens, referring to her father, “so I’m hoping the park that was named after him would be reserved for young people. If there’s a big tennis building there, it’s going to take away from the space for children.”
Likewise, John Travers noted that his father was known for being a baseball coach and taking care of the parks. He said he’d rather see it remain a ballpark, “not a big building that has taken up the space for kids to play.”
“We need more parks — maybe move it someplace close, but keep the park the way it is,” he said.
Finally, Monica Gunter — who also identified herself as Monica Travers-Gunter — said that while the Russell family are “very good friends of ours” and the gift to the city for the James E. Russell Sports Center was “generous,” “We want this gift to take footing someplace else other than over the playground at Travers Park.”
Describing the multi-court sports facility concept as a “wonderful, generous, but awful large building,” she suggested at least moving the center to the back of the park.
“Travers park is a blessing to this community and we just want it to stay the way it is, or at least the aesthetics of what it is,” Gunter added. “Travers Park needs to stay as Travers Park is now.”
The timeline for the project will be discussed in more detail April 20, though Nevins-Lavtar said, “The schedule isn’t 100% final and things could change if Dreamland thinks it would make sense.”
“Everyone, including myself, can’t wait to see this project completed,” she added.
More information on the Travers Park redevelopment plans are available on the city’s website at sandpointidaho.gov/your-government/departments/parks-recreation, as well as bit.ly/3MZzgPu. Register to participate virtually in the April 20 meeting at bit.ly/41q4Bzc or visit sandpointidaho.gov/your-government/meetings.
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