Street course gives project unusual focus

By Kevin Gemmell
Community Sports Writer

November 10, 2004

A skate park in Rancho Penasquitos is slated for completion this summer after almost a decade of opposition and debate.

The park, being built between Interstate 15 and Carmel Mountain Road, won't have the typical skate park elements, such as large halfpipes or massive empty pools. It is designed to simulate a street course, complete with rails, tables and benches for grinds.

"We worked closely with local skateboarders to solicit their ideas and what they wanted," said Clif Williams, chief of staff for Councilman Scott Peters who represents Rancho Penasquitos. "The kids said, 'We like jumping off picnic tables and doing rail grinds.' A lot of the smaller kids are scared by the huge vert ramps. Instead of making it look like a Tony Hawk course, this one has a little bit for everyone."

Yet not everyone supported the project. The park originally was going to be built near Hilltop Park, west of its current location. But the proposal drew strong criticism from neighbors, who collected 1,600 signatures against the park. The project was temporarily abandoned.

In 2001, a vacant parcel at the corner of Carmel Mountain Road and Freeport Way was secured for the project. The San Diego City Council gave its consent in September 2003 and construction crews broke ground last month on the $2.1 million, 20,000-square-foot skate park.

Mt. Carmel High freshman Matt Conser said he would like to see more vert ramps in the park, but he's not complaining.

"It's going to be great to have a place to skate every day after school. Before, it was skate wherever you can," said Conser, 14. "It would have been chill to have more vert, but right now, we'll take what we can get."

Professional skateboarder Willie Santos, who runs a skate shop near the park's location, said he and friend Aric Sanders offered a lot of input into the project's design.

"You are not going to make everyone happy, but we were able to get a little bit of everything in there," said Santos, 29, who skates under Tony Hawk's Birdhouse label. "This is great for the community and a lot of people are really excited about it."

Another component that makes the park unusual is its movable elements. Because there are so many items in the park – rails, benches and tables – pieces can be moved after a couple of months to create a new experience. There will also be a viewing area where parents or friends can watch.

There are some who still oppose the skate park, but Peters' representatives say they have done what they can to appease the contingent. Concerns include noise, safety issues from increased traffic on Carmel Mountain Road and night lights bleeding into back yards of the surrounding neighborhoods. As a compromise, the lights eventually were scrapped.

San Diego Parks and Recreation will maintain the facility. There will be a fee to use the park, which will go toward general maintenance. Williams said season passes likely would be available.

Santos said he believes only good can come from the park because it keeps skaters off businesses and, because it will be monitored, the use of safety equipment will be enforced. It also will keep his sport growing.

"Kids today definitely have the advantage," said Santos, who grew up in San Diego and started skating in the fifth grade. "They see what the pros do, and now they have a place where they can go and practice it. They'll master it and then they'll push it further."

Williams called the park a triumph for the community.

"I keep hearing the kids are real excited about it," Williams said. "It's on the minds of a lot of kids. It's going to be a great facility."