Skaters Flip For Park
Marina's half-million-dollar skatepark was designed by the kids who'll use it.
Thursday, June 12, 2003
Photo by Randy Tunnell
Shunned from parking lots and city streets, skateboarders in the city of Marina will no longer be forced to pursue their sport one kick-flip ahead of the police.
Public Works planners are now evaluating bids to build an 18,000-square- foot skate park near the Marina Teen Center at 304 Hillcrest Avenue.
If city planners approve one of the $400,000 to $500,000 proposals at their meeting on Tuesday, June 17, construction could begin in July, with the park completed by September.
Marina will join Salinas, Monterey, Santa Cruz and a host of other California cities that have built skateparks for their youth as part of the trend to accept skateboarding as a legitimate sport ("Skateboarding is Not a Crime," reads the bumper sticker).
One third of the money for the Marina skatepark--$168,000--came via a grant from the state. The rest of the money came from a variety of local and statewide sources. The city will soon have to decide whether it has the funds to approve a bid, or whether it must postpone or divide the project into three stages to meet budget allowances.
The park was designed by 34-year-old skater Zach Wormhoudt and his five-man company, Wormhoudt Inc., based in Santa Cruz. Wormhoudt is widely considered one of the best designers in the business, and recently completed one of the world''s largest skateparks in Louisville, Ky.
The company has a unique way of designing skateparks: Marina''s park-to-be was brainstormed by the Marina kids who will be using it, with whom Wormhoudt met on three separate occasions at the Marina Community Center.
Some 50 local skaters poured into each meeting to voice their wishes for the park, and Wormhoudt provided them with paper, pencils and clay to communicate their ideas. After each meeting he refined the plans until his design custom-fit their dreams.
"We use our expertise to make sure the park functions and flows and is structurally sound," Wormhoudt says, "but local skaters really decide how the park is going to be."
Other aspects of the park--such as hours, rules and perimeters--will be decided by the Recreation and Community Services Department.
Dan Gibson, who is handling the project for the department, said rules are being formulated using input from local skaters. One rule upfront: bikes will not be allowed, as they can damage the ultra-smooth cement surface.
While street skating is unlikely to stop in Marina, many locals will be grateful to see the fewer skaters flying by. This may be the reason that the park received virtually zero organized opposition. Program head Charles Johnson says he "proactively" consulted with locals and encountered great support--in fact, local citizens were some of the earliest advocates for the skatepark.
Darlena Ridler, chair of the Recreation and Community Services Commission, says that over the past two years, numerous people have asked that skaters be given their own place. The fleshed-out idea seems to have originated however, from Michael Lopez who works with youngsters for the Parks and Recreation Department.
Lopez, who calls the park a "blessing," said he came up with the idea while strolling in Merced''s Applegate Park, where he saw a skatepark under construction. He was inspired to bring something similar to Marina, because, he says, the town has so little to offer kids who don''t play mainstream sports.
Lopez took it upon himself to research other skateparks and submit a proposal to the Recreation Commission for a less-ambitious plan costing $50,000.
However, when commissioners discovered that grants were available, and when citizens began approaching with similar requests, the undertaking swiftly became serious and ballooned out of Lopez''s hands.
That was some two years ago. With talk of the upcoming skater''s paradise circulating from cell phone to pager, eager skaters are now crusing by the Teen Center. According to Center coordinator Tammy Macklin, 10 skaters are coming by every day, board in hand, and not to skate on the patchwork of uneven concrete outside the center. In the last five months, kids from other towns are coming to hang out and dream of performing rock-and-rolls and 50-50 grinds--without breaking the law.