Young skateboarders in Manhattan Beach are seeking a home base where they can safely–and legally–practice their sport. Photo by AmyLynne Hicks
Skateboarders have long faced a predicament in Manhattan Beach: they have nowhere to go.
They’re prohibited from public streets, parks, downtown sidewalks, the Strand bike path and Metlox plaza among other places, making too common these young athletes’ run-in with law enforcement. Popular skateparks–in San Pedro, Venice and El Segundo–are a drive away, burdening parents with the duty of shuttling over their children on a regular basis.
The dialogue for developing a local multi-use skatepark dates back to the late 1990s when it was first added on the long list of the city’s capital improvement projects. But because it was never identified as a priority, the project got lost in a shuffle of processes and was indefinitely put on hold.
With the Manhattan Beach City Council’s approval Tuesday to move the project forward, the prospect of a hometown skatepark is back on the table.
“This is long overdue,” Mayor Pro Tem Wayne Powell said. “We need a skatepark. Other cities have it, and the city has incurred damage to infrastructure. So let’s put our youth where they should be skating, and where they could also be supervised and where they will do it safely.”
The Council’s approval of the Parks and Recreation Commission’s request to form an ad hoc committee, conduct public hearings and review feasibility followed ardent testimonies from more than a dozen young skateboarders, parents and residents. Some 30 young students–donning backward caps and clutching their skateboards–filled the entire left section of the council chamber, sitting and cheering in solidarity.
Young skateboarders inundated the council chambers Tuesday in support of a hometown skatepark.
“This is not even like, an eighth of all the skateboarders,” said Ian Johnson, a student. “These are just the ones who came.”
While not one person resisted the concept of a skatepark at the Council meeting Tuesday night, location proved to be a contentious factor. Several residents living near Polliwog Park lamented that the area already suffers from traffic congestion from morning to night and the noise emanating all day from pedestrians and park-goers. Various sites–including Polliwog Park, Marine Avenue Park and Manhattan Heights–have been considered for a skatepark since 2001.
“We are already over-saturated with public use amenities,” said Stephanie Robins, a 33-year resident in the area. “…It isn’t a neighborhood park anymore. It’s become an amusement park and it’s hell to live there.”
Currently, the main contender is the area outside the center field fence at the Marine Avenue Park baseball field, due to its proximity to the middle school, distance from residences and abundance of parking.
“We just want a place to go where we don’t have to get involved with the police,” said Shane Crow, a Mira Costa student. “I’ve seen a lot of my friends get tickets just for skating in Metlox or downtown.”
A staff report estimates development costs for an 11,000 sq. ft. skatepark between $400,000 and $1 million–a primary concern for council members.
“Democracy is about ‘show me the money.’ You have to have the funds,’” Councilman Mark Burton said. “We’re dealing with competing interests all the time.”
Alluding to the success of previous private-public partnerships, including the American Youth Soccer Organization’s fundraising efforts and subsequent installation of synthetic turf at Marine Avenue soccer field last year, Mayor Amy Howorth suggested the city take a similar approach for the skatepark.
“We want the skatepark, so tell us how it’s gonna be funded,” Howorth said. “It may not be all city money; I feel like it has to be a private-public partnership because that’s exciting … I think it’d be really cool to take these really engaged people and bring them together in some kind of task force. What an opportunity for engagement.”
Moving forward, the Parks & Recreation Commission will form an ad hoc committee to begin the public outreach process to determine what type of skatepark Manhattan Beach residents want. The skatepark will be the Commission’s primary item of discussion in the following months, Parks and Recreation director Mark Leyman said Wednesday.
Alysse Johnson, a parent and longtime volunteer with the department, recounted at the meeting the city’s long history of deprioritizing these youth, who just “want a safe and legal setting to practice their sport.”
“This is just a systematic and symptomatic rejection of kids,” Johnson said. “It’s time to rectify the Council’s 15-year failure to this demographic. The city is behind the times–by two decades–but it’s not too late to do the right thing.”