Hank Investigates: Skate Park
Now a story you'll see on just one station: "Where's the skate park?" Hank first asked that question back in 2010 to a Massachusetts nonprofit group which raised big bucks to build a state of the art skate board arena. Now it's 2013 and there's still no park, but the group is still taking donations. Hank investigates.
"That's all I have to say right now, thank you very much," said Reneta von Tscharner of the Charles River Conservancy.
Why is this woman backing away from our questions? It's because of this: not what you're seeing, but what you're not seeing.
The woman, Renata von Tscharner, had promised an empty lot in Cambridge, just under the Zakim Bridge, would be turned into a big, fancy skateboard park.
Her nonprofit, the Charles River Conservancy, started fundraising for it in 2003 and the park was supposed to be awesome. It would have ramps, rails, a large bowl, and a wave pipe, and if you knew what that meant, you were amped.
At least $2.5 million in donations poured in. Skateboarders were told it would be ready in 2006, then 2008, and then "by the end of 2009." But in 2010, all we found was an empty lot with construction debris and a sign. So, where was the skate park? Three years ago, that's what we asked von Tscharner.
"When you do expect this park to open? You've raised millions of dollars for it. What is the answer?" asked Hank.
"I don't know. Projects in the public realm take a while and I think all skaters have to learn all things don't happen overnight," said von Tscharner.
Well, lots of overnights went by as they hashed out concerns over land rights and park administration and even the soil itself, which turned out to be contaminated.
Meanwhile, one skateboarder, for instance, who was six years old when the promises began, is now sixteen and still waiting.
"There was a promise that they should have kept, and they didn't," said James.
Skate forward to 2013, we found land issues and soil problems are essentially resolved, so now where's the skate park? When von Tscharner would not agree to an on camera interview and stopped answering our calls and email, we went to her Cambridge office, asking: "When is the real time that this skate park will open?"
"I don't know, I don't know. It will happen when everything is ready," von Tscharner replied.
So what isn't ready? Von Tscharner told 7News they still need a contractor to build the skate park and they're just now putting the project for bid.
"When do you even expect to break ground?" asked Hank.
"I can't tell you that, but it will be soon," replied von Tscharner.
"Do you understand that 'soon' and 'I don't know' is a concern for people who have donated millions of dollars to this?" asked Hank.
"Um, I have donated a lot of time and I'm concerned. I'm working on it every day so that's all I can tell you. Yep, all right. Thank you for coming and that's all I have to say," replied von Tscharner.
But their website has more to say. It shows the Conservancy is still raising money for the nonexistent skate park. Even as they refuse to say when we'll see anything more than an empty lot. When Hank asked "when is it time to give the money back?" Von Tscharner would not answer.