Why Not in Laguna?

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Our guest columnist suggests adding a skatepark to the mix.- By Dana Nichols


When I wrote about the rise in popularity of downhill skateboarding on Laguna Beach streets for Laguna Beach Magazine earlier this year, nearly everyone I interviewed—skaters, parents and those in favor of restricting it—mentioned that Laguna Beach does not provide a safe and supervised place off the streets where young people can skateboard.

Campaigning for the construction of a skatepark here isn’t a new concept, but it’s as important as ever. The number of kids riding longboards has increased from an estimated 20 to 200 in two years, and while riding down hills is a different discipline than the street-style and trick skating that’s done in parks, experts say skateparks provide safer places to learn, socialize and be athletic. You know the afternoon scene: clusters of amped up youth with energy to burn. Imagine it with supervision and out of traffic’s way. “Now with all these kids skating, I think the city’s forced to revisit the issue,” says Mark Golter, a local skateboarder and dad who says a skatepark would have areas for both types of riding.

“Skateparks allow the broader community to see the skateboarding youth for what they truly are: passionate, dedicated athletes that voluntarily seek out physical recreation. Most communities with new skateparks are surprised to see how popular and positive the facility is and regret not making it larger,” states the Tony Hawk Foundation, which has helped to fund and advise low-income communities on insurance, safety and design issues for more than 500 skateparks nationwide.

In the last two decades we have watched as skateparks have popped up all around: Mission Viejo in 1999, San Clemente in 2000, Lake Forest in 2003, Costa Mesa in 2005. Kids are still skateboarding in Laguna Beach—those who are brave enough to do it in the street.

There appears to be approximately $300,000 available for a skatepark in Laguna, according to councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson. Open-ended questions include: Where to build it? How much money is actually needed? Will kids actually use it?

“We had money for the skateboard park and [it] was denied every time. … Every single place we picked, one of the city council members would deny it,” says Penny Steris, who has been advocating a skatepark since the 1980s.

“If you put some sort of concrete with some rolling stuff, the kids are gonna go skate it,” says Chad Gibbs, whose son Wyatt, 15, is a pro downhill skateboarder. According to Skaters for Public Skateparks, the sport is the third most popular recreational activity for kids ages 6 to 18 and is a $2.5 billion industry. “The city has an opportunity to bring more revenue and people into town,” says local Matt Sheridan, who started Basics of Skateboarding camps for youth.

Finding a location is the No. 1 priority. Motivated individuals have drawn plans, generated petitions and met with city council, yet have repeatedly been met with “red tape” regarding location. “The thing with Laguna is land and property value. But where there’s a will there’s a way,” Chad says. With the price of building skateparks on the rise, waiting will only make it harder. Perhaps opportunity lies in sponsors donating land, grant funding, or a skate shop to drive the bus. Until then, skateboarders will be sharing the streets with cars and contentions will continue.  LBM

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  1. I am from Las Vegas and have a home in Laguna Beach. When I purchased my home last year i was amazed that there were no skate parks in Laguna Beach. I just assumed there would be. I have 2 boys that skate and there are dozens of parks in Las Vegas. I believe Laguna is missing a great opportunity by not having a skate park. I also think Laguna would have a tremendous amount of support locally from the board community (skim boarding and surfing). As far as location what would be wrong with the canyon maybe close to the Victoria Board shop the kids can take the shuttle and walk the rest. I understand people not wanting this in their very back yard but there are plenty of areas to place a park. Look at a Laguna Nigel skate park, it is a great example.
    Lets go Laguna and make it happen.

  2. Thank you Mike – you have the right spirit! Location, Location, Location that is the number one problem with this. With a team of positive parents, grandparents working together with the city council it can be done… I truly think great minds working together we can put our resources together and plan something for the youth of Laguna Beach.
    We have a great town – let’s mix the old, the new families and get something going! For the Safety and Well being of these kids on the streets- clock is ticking!

    Go Laguna!


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