2008: An Important Year for Portlandâ€™s Skaters
To make sense of where weâ€™re headed itâ€™s good to take stock in where weâ€™ve been. After so many years of neglecting skatersâ€™ needs in Portland, the progress made in the last few years has been very promising. Where once only Burnside stood, proudly DIY, defying the stereotype that skateparks and skateboarders could not be good neighbors, Portland now enjoys three more high quality parks.
SPS was pleased to be the organizing force that updated Pier Park with a one-of-a-kind, signature big wall feature complemented by a range of other features, including a sidewalk designed to be skated. Glenhaven, less gnarly but no less fun, followed shortly thereafter. With every dry moment these two parks see relentless use by untold numbers of kids (of all ages) having a great time getting an intense mind/body workout at their own pace among friends old and new. (What a concept! Maybe the president should make skatepark development a national public health priority.)
For me personally, however, the most interesting project of all was none of the above. It was little Holly Farm, the cityâ€™s first of a planned 13 skatespots. Overtly modest, its intention was to slip into a residential neighborhood without a fuss. To date, itâ€™s worked phenomenally well. Aside from an early spat of pre-teen graffiti, the park seems to have settled in no problem. Unquestionably, itâ€™s the most popular feature in the entire park, all of which is brand new. (As a skater you already knew the skate spot would be the most popular feature in the park…)
Dreamland was hired to do the job, and they produced an amazingly strong product. Take a 2,500 square foot circle and try to design a skatepark for it. For 99% of us we’d say it was virtually impossible. Dreamland took an incredibly limited footprint, both in overall square footage and shape, and produced something uniquely fun to skate. It still surprises me how well it works when I skate there.
In late 2006 city council directed $1,095,000 for more skatepark development. SPS encouraged Parks Commissioner Dan Saltzman to use the dollars to cover one existing park and build a new one. We did the math to show skaters would get more use over the course of the year this way versus two new parks. In the end, however, Saltzman chose to build two new parks, one each in SW (Gabriel Park) and SE (Ed Benedict) so the cityâ€™s four corners would be covered.
Initial timelines had both parks potentially completed by the end of 2007. Parksâ€™ timelines have slipped somewhat, and we’re now hoping to see Airspeed Skateparks break ground at Gabriel some time soon in the new year. Design-wise, Gabriel will be an old school snake run with a few contemporary twists. Ed Benedict is likely further back as Parks directed its selected contractor, Canadaâ€™s New Line Skateparks, to design a 16,000 square foot skate plaza instead of the 8,000 sf originally budgeted for. Parks isnâ€™t saying anything publicly, but sources inform us they’re hunting for private contributions necessary to expand the size of the Ed Benedict park. While we wait and wonder, we can at least take solace in the fact that New Line produces the best skate plazas in the business. They were the right choice for that job.
We at SPS are always anxious to see projects in the pipeline, so sometimes we see if we can get something started. After securing support from Parks, TriMet, Kenton Neighborhood Association, Adidas, and other community partners, SPS applied for a neighborhood grant from the Portland Development Commission to match cash and in-kind contributions for a phase 1 development of the Kenton Park skate spot. PDC denied the grant request, and it became apparent that while we had a really strong community partnership, PDC had other expectations for where the dollars would go. Hey, that’s politics. Weâ€™re paying our dues and yes, we’ll be back.
In personnel news, longtime skatepark project manager Rod Wojtanik left Portland Parks & Recreation for a new gig across the river at Metro, our regional government. Taj Hanson, a former Americorps volunteer for the Bureau of Environmental Services and skate plaza advocate, was hired to replace Rod in an interim capacity. What Taj is up to these days weâ€™re not sure. If you know more than we’re reporting here on Gabriel and Ed Benedict, serve it up. Inquiring minds want to know.
City Commissioner Sam Adams requested $50,000 to reevaluate the Steel Bridge skatepark concept. Look for more on that as the year progresses. Speaking of Sam, we’re reminded this is an important election year in Portland. By federal law, SPS cannot endorse political candidates. However we can urge you to learn more about which candidates have supported and do support skateparks and vote.
The final point to pass along relates to the last one. Every dollar available for skateparks is accounted for at this point with Gabriel and Ed Benedict under contract. There are no remaining dollars for additional skatepark development. If you want to see more skateparks built, you need to make the simple effort of supporting skate-friendly candidates and vote. Simple.
For more skateparks.
Board Chair, SPS
Photo: Steve Gump