Updated 4:29 p.m. to include comment from Lt. Marco Garmo.
Tony Hawk Foundation Executive Director Miki Vukovich called plans to hand the city's skate park over to any private entity a "disservice to the community" and a losing situation for the city, skaters and the YMCA.
The Imperial Beach City Council will consider turning over management of its skate park, sports park and baseball and softball fields to the YMCA at its meeting Wednesday, a change .
But Vukovich suggests the skate park remain in city hands.
"The people should recognize that they own it," he said. "It's not the city's. They manage it, but the public owns it. My assumption is that the skate park can exist separate from the rec center and remain under the city's jurisdiction."
Since its founding in 2002, the Tony Hawk Foundation has helped open more than 400 skate parks nationwide, including the IB skate park, Vukovich said.
"We've never seen a park go from municipal management be turned over to a private organization," he said. "It's not a usual remedy to budget issues since skate parks are the one thing for most cities that don't impact a budget."
The foundation awards grants to municipalities who run skate parks, not private service providers.
The $10,000 grant awarded to the city by the foundation to build the skate park that opened in 2011 was dependent upon the park remaining in city hands and skaters being able to use the park for free, Vukovich said. Any change in that deal may mean the foundation asks for its money back.
The skate park should stay in the city's hands because the facility is made of concrete and requires virtually no maintenance while private organizations who runs skate parks create costs.
"Cities enjoy a certain level of protection from liability that private organizations do not," he said. "Having private organizations operate skate parks have a lot of costs that aren't necessary."
Private organizations have to get insurance for the skate park. That means staff have to be present to enforce rules to wear helmets and pads and the cost of operating the facility goes up.
"The problem with that is not that supervised skate parks aren't successful, but usually what happens is costs are transferred down to skaters themselves," he said.
It's difficult to say what the true impact will be, Vukovich said, but more fees and supervision will likely decrease the amount of skaters who regularly use the park.
Instead they will be closer to cars and traffic and away from the relatively safe environment of a park. This could lead to more traffic accidents, more damage to public property and more young people could get into trouble.
Though no final agreement has been drawn up between the YMCA and city, a proposal by South Bay Family YMCA Executive Director Tina Williams said skaters would be charged an annual membership fee. Skaters without a membership would have to pay a day rate.
Actual membership costs have not yet been determined. Increases in costs will not be subject to city review, Williams told IB Patch. Costs are determined based on staffing needs.
The YMCA runs great skate parks, Vukovich said, but the parks are typically used by people who occasionally skate. Municipal skate parks are for everyday use.
Even with increased costs for skaters, any private entity running the skate park will not be able to recoup costs from fees charged to skaters.
"I don't think it's in the interest of the YMCA to include the skate park [in the deal] in terms of dollars and cents," Vukovich said.
Williams said staff would likely be present during office hours and insurance would be necessary but questions about costs related to the skate park cannot be answered until a deal is drawn up with the city.
"It's really too early to say. Most skate parks don't [recoup costs]. They're really a service to the community more than anything else," she said.
The YMCA has not yet requested a quota on how much insurance may cost.
Under YMCA management the sports park would be open for longer hours and may offer skate clinics.
"I mean there's a commitment on the park that we want to see the skate park available and used and programmed very much, but how that all details out at this point I can't answer that at this point," Williams said.
Assistant City Manager Greg Wade said the City Council is free to decide they want the skate park remain in the city's hands, but city staff recommend the skate park be part of the final deal so the park can have supervision that is currently lacking.
Under current city management staff are only present to open and close a gate that surrounds the skate park. Sports park staff do not oversee skate park activity.
Sports leagues that use the park and people who live nearby have complained about skaters at the park since it opened in 2011, Wade said.
Last month someone lit a skate board and some books on fire at the skate park, he said.
"I wouldn't say that's the norm, but I do know that happened recently," he said. "It's an ongoing concern that has been identified. If we had a higher degree of oversight I think we could curtail that activity and those problems."
Lt. Marco Garmo at the San Diego County Sheriff's Department Imperial Beach substation said calls for service have drastically decreased since a fence was installed around the skate park in late 2011.
"I remember when we were getting tons of calls for service only because kids were there at all hours messing around, smoking weed and all that," he said. "I can tell you the YMCA thing has nothing to do with the calls for service issue."
When it comes to giving back the Tony Park Foundation grant money, Wade said there was no clause in the grant application that required the park remain free, "but when we received the grant it was something that was made known to us."
"I can't speculate on how that will be resolved," he said. "That's something we would have to deal with assuming we can reach a deal with the Y."
Wade was unable to specify how much it costs the city to manage the skate park as the skate park costs are considered part of overall Sports Park fees.