Northfield’s proposed skateboard park runs into noise control questions - Northfield MN: News

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Northfield’s proposed skateboard park runs into noise control questions

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Posted: Friday, August 22, 2014 11:19 am | Updated: 11:22 pm, Fri Aug 22, 2014.

As a proposed skateboard park in Northfield continues to move forward, questions raised by area residents concerning noise pollution could delay the project’s schedule.

The city of Northfield has worked with interested parties for years to try to construct a skateboard park after an ordinance was passed in 1986 prohibiting skateboarding within the central business district. In 2006, a group of Northfield high school students formed the Northfield Skateboard Coalition. This group has raised $27,000 so far through fundraisers over the years as group members come and go.

The site for the skateboard park was debated and readdressed dozens of times before settling on Old Memorial Field. Within the around 14-acre park, four potential sites have been identified, with the planned project taking up between 3,000-4,000 square feet of a plaza-type park.

The project was in limbo for several weeks this summer until Pillar Design Firm was chosen as the designer. The city has been working with Pillar for several weeks now to nail down a concrete park design, working with the Northfield Park and Recreation Advisory Board and the Skateboard Coalition. The coalition has been hosting bi-weekly meetings to gather input from various groups, including neighbors in the area.

However, as the groups work together to create a design, there is another potential question to answer: Would a skateboard park in town create too much noise?

According to the Northfield Eastside Neighborhood Association, the answer could be yes. The association sent a letter to the city of Northfield and collaborating parties last week that listed concerns about building a skateboard park at Memorial Park. The letter, signed by 44 area residents, stated that residents had a concern about noise and suggested that the city hire a noise consultant to look into the project design.

“Depending on who you listen to, noise is either not an issue or a massive concern,” the association wrote in its letter. “Probably the truth lies somewhere in between. In any case, we hope you’ll appreciate that our concerns are grounded in actual research and experience. We don’t mean to suggest it’s impossible to safely construct a skate park within Memorial Park. We simply believe that it is crucial to do it right. The last thing any of us wants is a skate park that fails to meet noise standards or that doesn’t balance skateboarder and neighborhood desires.”

While the association is asking the city to hire a noise consultant, Skateboard Coalition representative Rob Hardy said the coalition won’t join NESNA in its goal.

“We neither support nor oppose a sound study,” Hardy said. “We simply decline to partner with NESNA in calling for one. Given NESNA’s history of unrelenting opposition to the skate park, it is far from certain that they would be a good faith partner in this effort. They have shown no willingness to support the skate board park in any way, so it’s understandable that the coalition would be hesitant to support them in calling for a sound study.”

Hardy said NESNA made the same request last October, and Nathan Knutson, previous chair of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, researched the issue and came to the conclusion that noise wouldn’t be an issue. His research showed that outside of a 100-foot circle, noise from a skateboard park would blend in with the rest of the environment, and even barking dogs make more noise than skateboarders. The Memorial Park site is far enough away from any homes that noise would hardly be noticeable, he wrote. Based on his report, the board chose not to conduct a sound study.

According to Hardy, the coalition is focused on fundraising and defers to the city engineering department and Pillar Design Studios to decide whether a sound study should be conducted.

He added that the park has many supporters within the site’s surrounding neighborhoods, so not all area residents agree with NESNA’s concerns.

Northfield’s Park and Recreation Advisory Board addressed the situation during its meeting Thursday.

“We need to think of the community around the park as well as the skateboard facility,” said vice-chair Grace Clark, adding that she would be interested in talking with a noise consultant.

Interim City Engineer Brian Erickson said while he was open to the idea, a consultant could cost around $3,500, and he didn’t know where to find the money for the project. He said it would be possible to take some money from the park fund, but he didn’t think it would be fair to expect the Skateboard Coalition to raise even more money.

He also questioned how there could be a sound study done on a park that hasn’t been built yet.

In the end, the board directed Erickson to work with Pillar about the possibility of hiring a noise consultant. Erickson will bring back more information at a later meeting.

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  • Discuss

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  • farmgirl posted at 8:01 am on Mon, Aug 25, 2014.

    farmgirl Posts: 3

    How long is the city and neighborhood groups going to block these kids from getting a skate park. Whats louder than 100 screaming kids at the pool? Was there a noise study for that? BUILD THE PARK!!!

  • steakholder posted at 7:48 pm on Sun, Aug 24, 2014.

    steakholder Posts: 1636

    Good point the "burden of proof" on the skateboarders, or the neighborhood association. If it's not uncommon to have skateboard parks in residential parks...then maybe they should pay for the study. On the other hand, if they pay for it, they get to pick someone who might come back with the answer they want... On the surface, the neighborhood association isn't SAYING that they don't want a park, but just that they want to make sure it's done in a manner that reduces potential noise. It sounds like there are some designs that are noisier than others. So let's just have someone spend a few hours reasearching this, and build it in the method that produces the least noise. With that in mind, if the park has reasonable hours, like closing at sunset or 9pm, I'm not sure that people have a lot to complain about. Everyone in town hears the train whistle at odd hours, you can have construction noise going on in your neighborhood, and the people in question did buy houses near a public park with a large public swimming pool, not a house out in the middle of a forest. Can't we just get this done

    Edited by staff.

  • NfldOpinion posted at 10:45 am on Sun, Aug 24, 2014.

    NfldOpinion Posts: 1

    If the neighborhood wants a noise consultant they should pay for it. Northfield has been without a skatepark for too long. Too many kids just sit in front of computers or televisions, so why does Northfield keep stalling development on a place where kids would actually be active?

  • benthere posted at 1:59 pm on Sat, Aug 23, 2014.

    benthere Posts: 13

    You(the city) can argue yourself into believing anything! And the city is starting to do just that. When I was a kid with a board about 40 years ago(wow) in Nfld, we found our places to go. We didn't have a skate park! Wish we did, so lets get going before all these kids and parents that are working for it grow old and gray!! Quit with this I don't know, maybe, oh no we can't do this with out an assessment garbage. The city knew years ago it needed the environmental assessment! I know the parents and kids that started this fund raiser, built the ramps for the kids and watched that all go to waste. Let's get going, ram it down our throats like a few other projects that have passed over the years or just table it for good!! I'm all done now!

  • College Student posted at 12:53 pm on Sat, Aug 23, 2014.

    College Student Posts: 215

    I will admit I am not one who likes kids very much... Screaming kids are the worst!.. Yet not allowing kids to have a safe space to play seems like a worse concern than some noise. Seems outrageous to call it "noise pollution" Such a shame the kid's efforts are being blocked for made up charges. It would be a real disgrace if this issue derails the skate park for the kids.

  • steakholder posted at 11:12 am on Sat, Aug 23, 2014.

    steakholder Posts: 1636

    I think the fact that we still don't have a skateboard park build is embarassing for a town like Northfield that tries to act like it's so progressive, and such a great place to live.

    For once, I tend to agree with David Gross, and I'd go even farther and say the city council should just contribute the extra money to pay for a few studies or whatever. We shouldn't let another $5,000 stand in the way of this project.

    Let's do this on the basis of some reasonable science or fact, and not just people's opinions. If it is too loud, it sounds like there are ways to solve the problem, if it's not, let's stop all the stall tactics.

    Basically what it seems to come down to is who has the power and money in town. Lot's of important people with jobs want a bike path across Hwy 3, so we'll spend 2 million of city money to build the eventual TIger Trail...

    However, the skateboarders don't work at the colleges, and they don't vote, so we just keep putting them off and jerking them around.

    Sorry, no street preachers, no skateboarders allowed.....welcome to Northfield!

  • Southside Mom posted at 9:06 am on Sat, Aug 23, 2014.

    Southside Mom Posts: 1

    I also agree with 1voice. It's time to build the park. I lived in one of the homes that was closest to the old skate park by County Market and noise was NEVER an issue. Actually, in all the time we lived near the park, we didn't have one problem. I find it embarrassing that it has taken Northfield so long to get this project done. I am against using money from the park fund or the Skateboard Coalition to pay for a noise consultant. Let's get the skate park built.

  • DavidGross posted at 8:50 am on Sat, Aug 23, 2014.

    DavidGross Posts: 338

    There is an engineering solution to this; it's objective, not subjective. And it costs some money to get it done, to investigate it.
    It is called an EAW, Environmental Assessment Worksheet, which will help the City Council to determine whether there is reason, probable cause, to believe that there will be, or will not be, a need for an EIS, Environmental Impact Statement, to determine what mitigations are REQUIRED for noise and possible other factors. The law is very clear that within very well-defined, scientifically-determined limits, the neighborhood simply has to put up with some noise of activities; and shut up, because it has nothing to do with health, safety, and welfare.
    The good news is that the study of sound, noise, is easy, and that there are other skate parks around to study in the method required by law. Does NESNA have ANY [half way reliable] data which would lead a reasonable person to conclude that there is a real likelihood of substantial environmental impact? Or are they imagining various roadblocks, trying to waste other people's resources for a project, to achieve another [personal, political, social] agenda and preference? That's called "bad faith." Do they have any good faith?
    There is a procedure by which the NESNA can force the matter, under law, by petition to the EQB, Environmental Quality Board. Of course, that would mean that they have to DO something, say what they really mean and have a basis for it, identify themselves individually, submit to the expertise of another, and sign on the dotted line. They should use it, or quit their nagging. All the rest is just harassment.

  • parentvoice posted at 1:02 am on Sat, Aug 23, 2014.

    parentvoice Posts: 440

    NESNA = NIMBY. Again.

  • Hopeful posted at 9:16 pm on Fri, Aug 22, 2014.

    Hopeful Posts: 241

    I could not agree more, 1voice. It sounds as if NESNA has a bad case of NIMBY.

    The City has dragged their feet long enough in building a skate park. These kids (many of whom are now adults) have worked hard since 2006 to work with the City on this project. They have raised $27,000 to get the project running and now NESNA wants to derail the project.

    If there was space for it in my neighborhood I would welcome it with open arms.

  • 1voice posted at 4:30 pm on Fri, Aug 22, 2014.

    1voice Posts: 16

    Just build the darn skate park already! I can't imagine that skateboards would cause any more noise than the kids screaming at the pool.


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