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Mid-City CAN Blog

Residents, skaters talk about park design

From left, Troy Gurling,a resident who lives on 37th Street by Park de la Cruz; Vincent Van, 17, a Hoover student; Charles Yem, 17, a student at Charter School of San Diego; and Zubin Eggleston, a City Heights resident who lives by Manzanita Gathering Place look at skate park design options during a community meeting on Oct. 21 at the City Heights Recreation Center. Photo by Adam Ward

From left, Troy Gurling, a resident who lives on 37th Street by Park de la Cruz; Vincent Van, 17, a Hoover student; Charles Yem, 17, a student at Charter School of San Diego; and Zubin Eggleston, a City Heights resident who lives by Manzanita Gathering Place, look at skate park design options during a community meeting on Oct. 21 at the City Heights Recreation Center. Photo by Adam Ward

On Oct. 21, young people packed the City Heights Recreation Center for the first public meeting to design the Mid-City Skate Park in Park de la Cruz.

The City of San Diego Public Works Department, as well as design-firm Stantec and San Diego landscape architect Schmidt Design group talked about the concept and how it fits in with the community. The audience heard from the designers and then broke into groups to create design concepts and address community concerns. The groups cut out pictures of features from other skateparks and placed them on the plans to express their ideas.

Troy Gurling said he rents on 37th Street and invested in a babysitter to be part of the discussion.

"I grew up in a time when there were no skateparks," he said.

Gurling said the skatepark will be a positive for young people in the neighborhood.

"There are a lot of opportunities to go down bad routes," he said. "Kids in the neighborhood who have been skateboarding, they are safe and they are together. It's positive. They are not the kind of kids that are going to join a team."

He also said the opportunity to have an outdoor location for exercise is much needed.

Skateboarding "is body motion, kinetic motion," he said. There are "cardiovascular benefits of doing it."

Some residents voiced concern about noise coming from the park, which will be in Park de la Cruz between a baseball diamond and Interstate 15.

Kanten Russell, project manager and lead designer at Stantec, said one of his roles was to strike a balance between residents' concerns and the skaters' needs.

"We say 'Hey, guys we heard what you are saying,' " he said. "We have the skate features in here, but we maintained some space for you guys to really enjoy the rest of the park."

Russell, who estimates that he has designed about 100 skateparks, including far-flung ones in places like Copenhagen, Denmark, said this sort or reassurance and concern from the community is common.

"We have actually done sound studies with the Tony Hawk Foundation," he said. "There is going to be more noise coming from that baseball field than there will be from that skatepark."

This technical data and experience addressing community concerns is one part of resident outreach, he said.

The skatepark design can be crafted so that "anything that is transitional will be poured in ground -- that will really cut down the noise level," he said.

But the skaters themselves are often the final piece of reassurance that nearby community members need, he said.

"These guys have good ideas," he said. "They have a passion for what they are doing, and the funny thing is you are probably going to hear them talking about where people are going to walk, where they are going to sit" and other issues that community members want to make sure are considered.

Skaters did indeed discuss these issues as small groups reported out their concepts for a skatepark. The overall feeling seemed to be widespread excitement about a nearby skatepark no matter the final design.

"It's a good thing," said Charles Yem, 17, a student at Charter School of San Diego. "It's closer."

Mid-City CAN Youth Council Member Terry Stanley described four-years of the group's efforts to get buy-in from nearby community members, including working with an organization called Human Impact Partners on a Health Impact Assessment of how the skatepark would change the community

"We did canvassing," he said. "We got 300-plus supporters that live in that ... one-mile radius of the skatepark."

For a longtime skater like Gurling, the idea of having an officially sanctioned skatepark is the realization that an individual sport like skateboarding is grinding away some of its stigma.

"I can only see positives personally, as a parent, as a skateboarder, as a member of the community," Gurling said. "It would be nice for City Heights to get that sense of community -- taking pride and ownership. ... I guarantee you that the skatepark will be used more than that baseball field will."

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