Let there be lights

Port Townsend High senior advocates for outdoor lights at local skatepark

Posted 11/24/22

The Port Townsend Skatepark has stood as a beacon of community for local skaters since its creation in 2006, providing a collection of bowls to shred, rails to grind, and ramps to jump.

But during …

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Let there be lights

Port Townsend High senior advocates for outdoor lights at local skatepark

Posted

The Port Townsend Skatepark has stood as a beacon of community for local skaters since its creation in 2006, providing a collection of bowls to shred, rails to grind, and ramps to jump.

But during the winter months, when the sun sets before 5 p.m. most days, folks looking to use the local amenity are left with little to no time to cruise the concrete before sundown.

Sensing the problem and in pursuit of a solution, Port Townsend High School senior Samantha Stromberg has spent the last year advocating for overhead lights at the skatepark on Monroe Street, especially during the wintertime.

In 2021, the teen started a petition on change.org, garnering more than 1,500 signatures and shedding light on the need for skatepark illumination.

“Last year was my second year of experiencing how dark it gets in the winter and I was like, ‘OK, we need to do something about this.’ So I made the petition and got a lot of positive feedback,” Stromberg said of her petitioning efforts.

“That was really nice, but after a while it just went quiet,” she said.

As she proceeded into her senior year of high school, Stromberg mostly moved on from the idea, but her passion and advocacy was reignited after a conversation with one of her school teachers.

“One of my teachers said I should take it on as my senior project, and I saw that as an opportunity to kind of force myself to keep trying instead of give up,” she said.

COMMUNITY COOPERATION

Since then, Stromberg has done her homework, reaching out to a variety of local municipalities including the Jefferson County Public Utility District, city of Port Townsend, and Port Townsend Police Department.

While reaching out to the PUD, Stromberg got in contact with general manager Kevin Streett and electrical engineering manager Jimmy Scarborough.

“Jimmy Scarborough and Kevin Streett were the most helpful, they worked out all the blueprints and one of them actually made me a flier. I haven’t printed it yet, but it’s really cool,” Stromberg said.

With Streett and Scarborough’s support, she was able to formulate a blueprint, needed materials, and estimated costs for the light project, with detailed information on placement and other specifics.

According to Stromberg’s documents, the light installation will cost an estimated $24,711. That would include setting up four streetlights, trenching and connecting conduits, and other costs.

During the months when the sun goes down earlier in the day, the lights would turn on around 4 p.m. and cut off at 8 or 9 p.m., according to Stromberg’s documents.

“It’s always nice to see our youth step forward to seek improvements to better our community,” Scarborough said. “She wanted to make sure the lights were LED; to me that showed she was also concerned with energy efficiency. I believe lighting the park will give the users longer hours in our dark months to take advantage of it.”

Stromberg also reached out to Port Townsend Police Chief Thomas Olson, who offered insight on the project as well as support.

“The police chief helped settle down the concerns about if there’d be more crime and stuff like that,” she said.

“There’s not a lot for our kids to do for gathering places, and this is one of them,” Olson said of the skatepark.

The police chief added that installing lights at the facility could actually decrease crime, considering it could serve as a deterrent for graffiti artists or delinquents looking to tag or deface the skatepark at night.

“The challenges we have there in hours of darkness have been graffiti, so if there are lights on … there’s less opportunity for people to come in and vandalize or put graffiti on the park,” Olson said.

Stromberg has also reached out to the city regarding her senior project, but has found limited success.

“As for the city, they haven’t really reached out much,” she said.

While she’s found modest success with the city, one councilmember that she reached out to has been particularly helpful.

“Ben Thomas, he personally reached out and was like, ‘I want to help you get this done,’ so he’s been the most helpful for sure,” she said.

COUNCIL CONSIDERATION

Stromberg upped her approach to the city, speaking during the public comment portion of the council’s Nov. 7 business meeting.

Responding to an inquiry by Thomas on considering the outdoor lights plan in a future meeting, City Manager John Mauro said: “I’m not trying to ‘dark hat’ this one or ‘black hat’ this one, but there are also some competing priorities in terms of ‘dark sky.’

“It sounds terrible to say after a student comes and says please make our city more friendly … but just another piece to weave in so we’re relatively consistent and work through that appropriately,” Mauro added.

“Dark sky” refers to the city’s work to keep streetlights and other sources of illumination from interfering with stargazing.

Public Works Director Steve King said more research would be needed on the proposal.

“We need to make sure estimating it is on target; it seems a bit light,” King said of Stromberg’s $24,000 estimate for installation and materials costs.

The most recent city-approved investment in the skatepark came in mid-2021 when the council authorized a $36,000 contract to refurbish and repaint the fence surrounding the park.

Stromberg remains optimistic.

“I really do think this is achievable, even if the city can’t pay for it themselves,” Stromberg said. “I definitely believe we can apply for grants or get it done somehow.”

Considering her next steps, Stromberg said she was unsure. Still, there’s hope.

“I’m kind of at a loss right now, I don’t really know what the next move is. I’m not sure what more I can do besides just being persistent and reaching out,” she said.

To view Stromberg’s petition, go to change.org/p/strongly-request-lights-be-installed.

Comments

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  • Snowball_InHawaii

    Lighting the skatepark should have been done long ago. It's a permanent fixture of the town. More people are moving into the area, meaning that the park will increase in popularity. Seems there is always more money for "art" and other things that don't give anyone any exercise. It's high time to get this done.

    Thursday, November 24 Report this

  • MargeS

    Good luck on your senior project. It took a long time for young people to get the city to pay attention to building the skate-park. Lighting is a must for winter months. Time to finish the job.

    Friday, November 25 Report this

  • janby55

    I am so proud of you for all the work you have done for something you believe in, Samantha! I am sure you have learned a lot during this process - and that's a great thing! I remember going to the city council meetings when my boys were skateboarding and we had no skate park. We sure needed one then - and now that we have it, we really do need lights on it! Keep up the good work and I wish you all the best in your future. I miss you!

    3 days ago Report this