San Luis Obispo's skate park sucks. No one disputes this. But what should be done about it?
For much of the population, the answer is a resounding "Who cares?" Skating is vilified, outlawed, and generally dismissed as the purview of adolescent ne'er-do-wells. But a growing community of concerned skateboarding enthusiasts is becoming increasingly vocal and proactive about improving local skateboarding opportunities, trying to raise both awareness and money to improve the dilapidated and, some claim, unsafe SLO Skate Park.
"This is what we have," said Jonny Miller, gesturing broadly toward the skate area in Santa Rosa Park. "This is where the police tell us to come. I mean, look at the cracks in the half pipe!"
For the record, Miller isn't some pimple-faced kid. He's the 40-something owner of Trading Post Skate Shop, a father of two, a professional skate champ, and the organizer with Jay LaPalm of the Second Annual April Fools Skate Jam, an event scheduled for March 31 and April 1, which aims to raise money for the beleaguered facility. Learn more at www.ccmfslo.com.
What will be done with raised funds is open to debate. Parks and Recreation Coordinator Christine Wallace, who oversees the skate park, noted that the all-wood facility doesn't weather well, and that continuing to repair substandard ramps seems like throwing good money after bad. The city recently spent $7,500 to resurface the ramps and half pipes, but because the wood framing underneath is falling apart, the surfacing has begun to crack.
"We recently put in a [Capital Improvement Project] request for $120,000 for new equipment," Wallace said.
This money, if approved, would purchase steel-tube equipment with a 20-year warranty. But whether or not the funds will be approved is a big "if."
"Several weeks ago, the City Council held an open community forum to ask citizens what they want to see the city spend money on," Wallace said. "A big group of skate park people went to the meeting and said, 'Hey, we want a new skate park.' The City Council takes these requests and rates them, and the new skate park came in number 6 or 7."
What these skaters were advocating for, according to Miller, is a concrete park like the one recently built by the county in Los Osos. That project, which also included tennis courts and other amenities, cost $2 million. Wallace said if such a facility were approved, construction would be many years off. In the meantime, Wallace must make do with her $2,000-a-year equipment budget (she also gets $1,000 for staffing and supplies, and has a miscellaneous fund raised by past skate park fundraisers).
Wallace expressed concern about how to spend the miscellaneous funds: "It's not a lot of money less than $1,500 but it would probably buy one piece of steel-tube equipment. I feel like I should sit on it a little longer and see which way the council is going to go."
In the meantime, Miller wants to continue to raise awareness and funds: "The public needs to know that skateboarding isn't just some kid clack-clacking off a staircase and making trouble. It's a serious sport, and I just feel as a father that SLO has the short end of the stick when it comes to skateboarding facilities. We've got great sports fields and state-of-the-art facilities for other sports, but our skate park is a wreck."
In an effort to focus awareness and create a central location to raise outside funds, Miller and LaPalm formed Central Coast Mothers Favorites, which is sponsoring the April Fools Skate Jam. Those wishing to donate can send checks to CCMF, 1260 Palm St., SLO, CA 93401.