Saturday, December 10, 2011

2011-12-10 "Benicia skateboarder launches movement for lights" by Tony Burchyns from "Vallejo Times-Herald"
In just 10 days, Benicia High School junior Ryan Woodward has recruited hundreds of people in Benicia and surrounding communities to sign his petition, which he's circulating both online and in person.
"All my friends want lights," Woodward, 16, said Thursday as the sun set in Community Park. He and about a half dozen other skaters and BMX bike riders were performing their final Ollies and other tricks of the day as the shadows grew long.
 "It's only fair," Woodward added. "Everybody else here has lights." As he spoke, youth soccer players practiced under lights on the neighboring field. "The (street) hockey rink (next to the skate park) has 'em and they barely even use 'em."
The generator-powered hockey rink lights, however, were installed without city permission, and city officials are seeking their removal, according to the parks department.
Meanwhile, parks director Mike Dotson said even if there's enough support to do the project, the city probably wouldn't have the funds. But outside fundraisers, like the one that helped get the X-Park built in the first place, could be an option.
As of Friday night, Woodward had recruited 194 people to sign his online petition at He said nearly 500 others had signed a paper petition he's circulating, too.
For him and other young skaters, it's an issue of fairness. Two of Community Park's four softball fields have lights, which were installed in 2003 with grant funding. In 2005, the city paid to add lights at the public tennis at Benicia Civic Center Park.
Other Benicia sports facilities with lights are Fitzgerald Field, used for night baseball, and the two softball fields at Benicia Middle School, which are used by adult softball leagues and Little League, Dotson said.
With municipalities going through tough budget times, though, Dotson said there's less money available for such amenities. Increasingly, it's up to outside groups to come up with the funding for recreation projects; that was the case last year when residents raised about $10,000 to install a disc golf course.
Also, a local bocce ball league is seeking to raise tens of thousands of dollars, Dotson said, to expand the number of public courts from two to four.
The skate park itself, which opened in 2007, resulted from a years-long fundraising effort. Dotson said lights were discussed during planning, but digging underground conduits and creating a power supply presented significant cost hurdles.
For one thing, the city would have to add a second transformer to the park to light the skate park's bowls. Dotson estimated that that alone could cost as much as $200,000.
Supporters of putting in lights, though, say there's demand for nighttime skating. Some of the park's users are adults who work during the day.
For now, Woodward said he's not sure where his petition will lead. He said this is the first time he's taken action on an issue he's cared about, and he's hoping for some help from others.
"I'm kind of waiting for other people to show up, and get their ideas and help out," he said. "I don't know exactly what I'm going to do yet."
As evening came on, he and his buddies said they were headed to St. Helena's skate park. The community there raised about $10,000 to install lights last spring, St. Helena Parks Supervisor Jim Hellar said. Now instead of closing at sundown, it's open until 10 p.m.
"I think it would be awesome if they made lights here," Benicia High sophomore Alonzo Rodriquez said, straddling his BMX bike. "It would be more fair ... I feel a lot more kids would come to the skate park."
Jaren Perry, 15, a Benicia High sophomore, said the short winter days make it harder to use the park.
"I come here often, but ever since the end of daylight savings, it gets dark so early," Perry said. He wondered if recently added solar panels -- which supply electricity to a converter to power the park's lights at night -- could help provide "green" skate park lights.
"A lot of people can't really go during the daytime because they have work or school," Woodward said. "And they're not really willing to make the trip here just for about 20 minutes of skating before it gets dark.
"But if you add lights, there would be a lot more people willing to come here."

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