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New Skatepark a Lesson in Patience, Character

Local Commentary

Posted: March 3, 2008 9:00 p.m.
Updated: May 3, 2008 5:01 a.m.
I am a 45-year-old father of three who lives, works and pays taxes in the Santa Clarita Valley. I took up skateboarding six years ago after a 20-year hiatus. It is one of the best things I have ever done for myself, both mentally and physically.

To date, with my sons Peter, 9, and Will, 8, we have skated over 30 skateparks in and around California. We have considerable experience in all levels of terrain and varied skateparks. We currently travel at least weekly to our favorite skatepark in Glendale, one of the best in California. It has been my privilege to see skating not only through the eyes of a skater but also through the eyes of a concerned parent and active participant in the community.

Starting in December 2006, the city of Santa Clarita began public design meetings for the new skatepark. In my opinion, the meetings were sparsely attended in light of the amount of people this new facility would benefit. I estimate 40 to 50 people, at best, averaged through the two meetings. Equally surprising was the lack of parent participation, given the hoopla and attention "organized sports" receive in this valley. (Kudos goes to the three or four other parents I met at these meetings).

The city has retained the Site Design Group to design the skatepark. This organization is top in its field, and the evidence can be seen in some of Southern California's best skateparks. The Site Design Group is responsible for two of the best parks in California: the challenging park in Glendale, Verdugo Skatepark, and the incredible Etnies Skatepark of Lake Forest, just to name a couple.

Through a group process the designers and planners were given the public's input. The final designs are an amalgam of the group that was present. It promises to be a shining jewel in Santa Clarita's crown. The "skate plaza," for street-style skaters, will be unprecedented in current Southern California skateparks.

Currently there is turmoil about the downtime (the closure of the local skatepark) between the closing of the current skatepark and the completion of the new one. This downtime was discussed in the planning meetings. It was mentioned that every effort would be made to minimize the time in between skateparks.
Somebody brought up the idea for the temporary park - but nothing was ever promised. Nor was the idea of the temporary park ever really discussed or taken too seriously at the time. This issue could have been taken care of pro-actively over a year ago if the same skaters now signing the petition calling for a temporary skatepark attended the planning meetings.

I personally feel this petition/issue is another case of the current generation's obsession with entitlement and immediate gratification. As Rick Gould mentioned in a recent Signal article, Santa Clarita's skaters are being virtually given an amazing park! This park will inevitably be one of the best skate plazas in Southern California! In order for this to happen, a small sacrifice has to be made. Unfortunately, a few skaters feel they are entitled to a costly temporary park in its place for the small amount of time the current park is down. Not only will this park be temporary, but by its very definition, also a costly drain.

In addition, the argument that a temporary closure will increase illegal skating (skating in restricted public areas) during this "downtime period" is ridiculous, as it is currently taking place anyway. The skaters who insist on trespassing will continue to do so, skatepark or not. This argument amounts to more of a threat then a valid argument. In addition, many of the skaters supporting this issue obviously did not attend the initial meetings; moreover, I doubt many of them actually frequent the current skatepark on a regular basis.

To reiterate, it will take time for the current skatepark to be built, and there will be small sacrifices to be made. This new park will be a great gift to all in this valley. And like the current park, it is a great gift and privilege, not a right. It is a great fallacy to make these demands based upon something that is a privilege and not a right.

Several solutions may be:

* The group of skaters who have signed the petition take action steps such as organize fundraisers, starting now, for their own temporary skatepark. In light of this action, perhaps the city could supply the needed space. In this scenario the skaters would be working toward a common goal and have a sense of ownership/accomplishment instead of expecting another taxpayer handout. In addition, temporary skateparks are notorious for high upkeep demands, and it is well known that when something is a handout, and not earned, it lacks proper respect.

* Perhaps the parents could get together, also, much like the parents of thousands of the kids involved in organized sports. They could form carpools to transport their kids to skateparks in the area. Pedlow skatepark in the Valley is 25 minutes away. Burbank skatepark is 30 minutes away. Glendale is 35 to 40 minutes away.

* Or perhaps the city itself could organize skate outings on a weekly basis to these parks. This would also foster some community amongst the skaters going on these trips. In the long run, the buses might cost less than the temporary skatepark.

So these are my thoughts as a skater and father of three skaters. (My 6-year-old daughter is now skating parks.)

Nothing was ever promised about the temporary park, nor was it brought up in the appropriate venue. Now in the eleventh hour, on the eve of the groundbreaking for our new "state of the sport" skatepark, this issue is inappropriately brought up.

We as taxpayers and the city are now being asked to siphon funds and resources, earmarked for our goal, toward a temporary but costly fix. For whom? And why? Unfortunately, to get from point A to point C we have to travel through B. Anything worth achieving involves some sacrifice, but alas, this is a tough concept for the current generation of kids. Perhaps we can use this as teaching tool about planning and goals.
See you at the skatepark!

Eric Christiansen is a Saugus resident. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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