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Mid-City CAN Blog

City Heights skatepark effort gaining speed

Peter Whitley

Peter Whitley, programs director at The Tony Hawk Foundation - shown at the Dec. 6
skatepark rally at Cherokee Point Elementary school, said "
Given the relative
inexpensiveness of skateparks, compared to anything else that the parks department
wants to do with their money, they should be able to put [the City Heights skatepark]
on a faster track." Photo by Phuc Nguyen

Tony Hawk Foundation expert says concrete should be poured for project by ‘the end of 2013’

Peter Whitley, programs director at The Tony Hawk Foundation, has unique insight into skatepark advocacy.

The Tony Hawk Foundation made 500 skatepark grants in 10 years and about 420 of those parks are open, according to Whitley. Whitley personally will have logged more than a thousand requests for skatepark consultation by the end of 2012.

But despite all that experience, he said he never saw anything like the Mid-City CAN skatepark rally Dec. 6 at Cherokee Point Elementary School. The rally was the culmination of the Mid-City CAN Youth Council campaign to add a skatepark to City Heights, an area that is 100 acres short of park space according to San Diego’s guidelines.

“Nobody shows up for a meeting on a recreational issue like that,” Whitley said, referring to the large crowd of about 300 people at the event where “the seats were full to the back.”

Those type of crowds are unheard of in urban-planning meetings, he said.

“It doesn’t happen for a stadium,” he said. “It doesn’t happen for softball fields or anything – swimming pools or waterslides.

“You are breaking new ground and setting precedents that the City isn’t accustomed to. … There is a lot of excitement there.”

City officials may have been unaccustomed to such a high level of community engagement about a parks issue – but they certainly took notice.

Newly sworn-in Mayor Bob Filner said attending the rally was one of his first official acts as mayor, and he was unswerving in his support.

“We have a budget in our City of San Diego of $3 billion,” said Mayor Filner. “That’s a lot of money. If we can’t find the money to do this, we should pack up.”

Filner’s enthusiasm even led him to create a new motto for the effort.

He led the crowd in a chant of a “Skate se puede.” Se puede is a Spanish phrase that translates roughly to “we can do it.”

The President of San Diego Unified School District's Board of Education also committed to aid the effort.

“Know that you’ve got the support of the entire school district -- the entire school board,” said Richard Barrera.

“Our schools are open to you to do your planning and your visioning,” he said. “We support you 100 percent.”

The principal of Cherokee Point offered his perspective about how a skatepark could give young people a healthier future at the rally.

“We’ve got to do something about our kids being on the streets – it is so unsafe,” said Godwin Higa, principal of Cherokee Point Elementary. “I’ve been working for four years – this is my fifth year – trying to get a skatepark somewhere close to this area, so it’s safer for the students than riding on the streets. We want to make this happen. Please support this.”

For the Tony Hawk Foundation’s Whitley, supporting this effort makes a lot of sense for elected officials.

Whitley explained that for skateparks, “$40 a square foot is an industry high average. So there are lots of ways to cut corners on that, in-kind donations … but essentially, if you budget in preliminarily at $40 per square foot, you are going to end up with a pretty kick-ass skate park."

That figure is from “deck to deck,” Whitley said. The total would not include landscaping, benches, lighting, parking or other improvements.

With those numbers, this level of public support from officials isn’t surprising.

"Given the relative inexpensiveness of skateparks, compared to anything else that the parks department wants to do with their money, they should be able to put this on a faster track," Whitley said. "I think you could probably get concrete poured in the ground by at least the end of 2013.”

And Whitley said it is more than just elected officials paying attention.

“A lot is going on in Mid-City, we are really excited about this opportunity,” Whitley said at the Cherokee Point skatepark rally. “Tony Hawk talks about it. All the pro-skaters that show up talk about it – it’s just a matter of time.”

City Heights residents gathered at Cherokee Point Elementary School to demand a new skatepark and more safe places to exercise in City Heights.

City Heights residents gathered at Cherokee Point Elementary School to demand a new skatepark
and more safe places to exercise in City Heights.
Photo by Adam Ward

 

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