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COWABUNGA

It's been nearly three years since voters approved the initial funding for the project, but last week a majority of the city council finally endorsed the development of a skatepark mega-network--a plan at the cutting edge of public parks in North America. According to the blueprint, 19 skateparks will be scattered throughout the city.

The project began in earnest in 2002, when voters passed a parks levy earmarking funds for the first two projects--a new skatepark at Glenhaven Park (in outer east Portland) and the renovation of the architecturally flawed Pier Station Park complex in St. Johns. The other sites will be finalized in upcoming months.

According to Parks & Rec Project Manager Rod Wojtanik, past proposals have failed because skatepark proponents didn't sufficiently involve the public in the process.

"They had basically focused on one site and didn't see if anything else would work," he explained.

But this time around, Parks & Rec underwent a comprehensive assessment of all possible plots. In all, 52 public meetings were held during the selection phase.

Now, the next challenge will be to raise funds to build the remaining 17 parks--an estimated $9 million. SHANNON GREEN

SAVED FROM THE MALL

For the time being, the ills of urban sprawl seem to have been thwarted: For the past few weeks, Portland-area's last drive-in movie theater has been struggling for its future, as a new mall has threatened to move in next door. Managers for 99W Drive-In worried that the additional nighttime illumination--like flood lights in the mall's parking lot--would wash out their projections.

But late last week, after dozens of emails swamped the City of Newberg Planning Commission, local bureaucrats hammered out what they believe is a win-win situation. The mall will be allowed to move in, but with certain restrictions on their lighting.

For the time being, 99W will continue the tradition that started in 1953 when J.T. Francis built the theater. Francis continued to operate the drive-in until his death in 1999 at the age of 98. His grandson continues to manage the family's movie houses. PB

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