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Officials: Skate plaza is only beginning in City Heights

Emerald: 'We will have a skate park matched by none other'

Terry Stanley, 19, a Mid-City CAN Youth Council member said at the June 1 announcement of funding for the Central Avenue Mini Park Skate Plaza "The skate plaza is not as big of an area as skaters would like, but it's a start." Photo by Adam WardAfter more than two years of campaigning to add more park space to City Heights, a group of Mid-City CAN young people got an official commitment to create a skate plaza in early June.

About 30 members of the media and City Heights residents came together on June 1 to hear the announcement from San Diego City Council members and representatives from the Mid-City CAN Youth Council: The first skate plaza in City Heights will be at the Central Avenue Mini Park.

A featured speaker at the media event was Terry Stanley, 19, a Mid-City CAN Youth Council member who has become a leader of the group during the past six months.

The announcement is a "big accomplishment for us youth because -- as a skater myself for six years -- it's hard to skate around City Heights," Stanley said.

Stanley said he and other skaters who live in City Heights face many obstacles. Often they skate in areas with motor-vehicle traffic. Safer areas often don't allow skating, and can lead to tickets for skaters who skate there anyway.

Stanley said he knew that the park's impact would go beyond adding a few thousand square feet of outdoor exercise space.

"It shows that youth have a voice and are being heard," he said.

San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria, who represented part of City Heights before redistricting, explained why even a small park like this is so important for City Heights.

"We know that City Heights is incredibly park deficient," he said. "A recent study showed that we are 40 percent below the target acreage in this community when it comes to parks."

City Councilmember Marti Emerald explained that originally the city planned the skate plaza but had no funding source. However, officials got approval from California Department of Housing and Community Development to use money originally granted to a stalled Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation project to fund the plaza.

"And here is what made it possible, just a kind of stroke of serendipity," Emerald said. "Not only did it pay for this park, that $846,000 state grant will help us set aside money for the big skate park which will be located behind Cherokee Point, ... where the old Copley YMCA is now. So stay tuned!"

Emerald's vision is for City Heights to become a magnet with its parks.

"Kids from all over the city are going to be coming to City Heights because we will have a skate park matched by none other," she said.

Emerald recalled a District 9 debate in May 2012, hosted by the Mid-City CAN Youth Council, and its critical role in securing funding for the City Heights skate plaza.

"We met with Mid-City CAN kids and they had a pledge that they wanted us to sign," she said. "I signed that pledge.
"Together we have made something happen that has been years and years in the making."

Steve Eldred, City Heights program manager for The California Endowment, put the work in a statewide context.

"The California Endowment is committed to creating or supporting communities for children that are healthy and safe and ready to learn," he said. "We've made a 10-year commitment to concentrate efforts to City Heights and 13 other communities across the state. We are really excited about the progress we've seen."

Another City-Heights focused foundation also added its perspective.

"Mid-City CAN led what is now a community-wide effort to build parks in this community that is one of the most overpopulated and under-parked areas of the city," said Tad Seth Parzen, executive director at City Heights Partnership for Children and executive vice-president at Price Charities.

For the Youth Council's Stanley, the group's experiences are the most valuable outcome.

"The skate plaza is not as big of an area as skaters would like, but it's a start," he said. "And it is a bigger step to community involvement."

Central Avenue Mini Park by the numbers

Central Avenue Mini Park mapLocation: Near the corner of Central Avenue and Landis Street, where the pedestrian bridge crosses Interstate 15. (The path from the bridge to the sidewalk will move.)
Size: 0.64 acres
Construction begins: October 2014
Construction finishes: November 2015

Park includes

• Tot lot for 2- to 5-year-olds
• Playground for 5- to 12-year-olds
• Open turf area
• Plaza with games, landscaping, and trees

Skate plaza size: 0.145 acres
• Approximately 23 percent of the .64 acre site
• "The skate plaza is going to be a little bit less than 6,500 square feet of this overall park," said Stacey LoMedico, San Diego's Park and Recreation Director

Source: San Diego City Council District 9 office.

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