Within the next few weeks, the Kodiak City Council will begin to examine spending plans for $1.9 million remaining from the first phase of the Baranof Park Improvements Project.

We strongly urge the city to consider spending some of that money to address the failing Baranof Park skate park.

When the skate park was approved by the city in 1999, it was supposed to be a place where skaters, bikers and scooter riders could ride, jump and play in peace, without being troubled by irate downtown business owners.

In that, it has been wildly successful. The park is packed on sunny days, and even rainy ones see a handful of hardy skaters and bikers while Baranof’s brand-new fields go empty.

The skate park is now showing its age, however. Weather and use have worn down its equipment, and ramps broken by attrition have not been replaced. Only the simplest jumps and rails still survive.

The original plan for Baranof Park called for the remaining $1.9 million to be used on an artificial turf baseball outfield, lighting for the new sports field, and new bleachers.

Skate park advocates have said the money should be used in the way that benefits the most people. While no statistics on park use are available, the skate park is a winner under that argument, and we agree with their assessment. A baseball outfield would be a nice addition to Baranof Park, and it could even be used for other activities when the main sports field is in use.

Unfortunately, no engineering and design work has been done on an improved skate park, and there are no estimates on how much a new skate park will cost. The best estimates so far for constructing the baseball outfield range between $1.5 million and $1.7 million.

While that seems high for a facility that goes unused for most of the year, those estimates leave money enough for improvements to the skate park even after a new outfield is built.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Committee has set the outfield as its top priority. If the cost of the outfield rises, however, we encourage the city to look elsewhere. A new and improved outfield would be a wonderful addition to the park, but cost must be a consideration.

If the city can get more bang for its buck elsewhere, whether with a skate park, new tennis courts or a security system to prevent another arson attack, it should do so, even if those projects were not originally planned.

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