By Christian Leonard
A local skate park near the La Cañada Unified School District office has sat somewhat empty this summer, despite efforts to increase traffic with expanded summer hours, but city officials say the spot is still a valuable place for kids to socialize and learn skateboarding basics.
And with classes starting up again soon, it can serve again as a convenient after-school recreation site.
Opened as a permanent facility in 2003, the park last underwent renovation in 2008 for about $174,000, which included resurfacing the skating area and basketball court and installing new fences and ramps.
Annalise Waterman, a recreational specialist for the city of La Cañada Flintridge, recently described the park as a good way to keep “a lot of the kids out of trouble.”
“[The children have] somewhere to come with their friends and they can hang out,” Waterman said. “And it is supervised, so they can’t be doing some of the other things they might be doing.”
When summer began, the park for skateboarders and BMX bikers extended its hours to include mornings and afternoons — 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and 3-7 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays, and 2-5 p.m. Sundays. When students return to school, morning hours will be eliminated.
With ramps, rails and a 20-foot halfpipe, the skate area extends about 100 feet by 80 feet inside a fenced, concrete complex adjacent to basketball and tennis courts, according to city management analyst Christina Nguyen.
Though the number of visitors to the park varies throughout the year, Nguyen explained, it generally hosts two to eight people per day. Waterman added that LCF residents seem to visit more often during the school year, but during the summer many leave for vacation.
However, attendance varies greatly even when school is in session, according to city recreational specialist Leilani Dominguez. She said recently that she sees about five visitors a day during her school year shifts — half the number that come to the park during the summer, she estimated — but that in her experience the skate park is busier toward the end of the school year.
Though the skate park may not be the most popular spot for community members, an advantage is that its equipment does not require much maintenance, according to Nguyen. The only annual cost is the approximately $20,000 used to pay the part-time recreational specialists who supervise the park while it is open. Parents are required to sign a waiver for their children, but they do not have to remain to watch their kids.
Opened as a temporary facility in 2001 as a result of an agreement between the city and the LCUSD, it proved to be popular enough that the City Council made it a permanent feature in 2003.
But there might be factors that discourage some potential patrons from using the park, including the continuously changing and limited hours of operation, said one former visitor, Derek Nazarí.
The park changes its hours four times a year to account for school sessions and Daylight Savings Time. The facility doesn’t have lighting, so the hours are shortened during the months when the sun sets earlier.
Nazarí, an employee at Ocean View Board Sports in Montrose, said he used to go to the park, but it wasn’t open the few times he visited it. That the ramps are made of metal is another deterrent, since they can easily become hot to the touch, he added. However, Waterman explained that the park closes when the temperature is too high.
An additional issue, according to Nazarí, is the regulations. All skaters, including adults, are required to wear helmets, kneepads and elbow pads.
“Nobody wants to have to wear a helmet,” Nazarí said. “If it’s up to you, then fine … but if you have to, people just don’t like it. It gets kind of annoying if you want to be flexible and free and then if you’re forced to wear it when you go there. It’s like, why would I go there? I’ll go somewhere else.”
That “somewhere else” might include the Crescenta Valley Skate Park, just four miles away from Cornishon Avenue in La Crescenta. According to a posted sign, skaters there are required to wear the same protective gear as is mandated at the LCF park, but the rule isn’t enforced, according to David Hauser, a recreation services supervisor for Los Angeles County, who says the park generally has at least 50 visitors a day. The park, which is open from sunrise to sunset, also does not require visitors to sign waivers.
Waterman agreed that the regulations often keep skaters from using the LCF park. She has had to turn away several visitors who do not possess the required gear, sometimes referring them to the CV skate park instead.
“They really want this one, because it’s got some stuff that the other ones don’t. … I’m like, ‘You can’t come here, but do you know about CV?’” Waterman said.
The Crescenta Valley park is also bigger. Waterman believes the LCF park is somewhat small, by comparison, so skaters might move on from it after practicing their tricks.
Nazarí said that the placement of the ramps and other fixtures is another important factor, allowing skaters to move more smoothly and avoid running into each other. Concrete Disciples, a website that reviews skate parks, seems to agree, with an editor complaining that the LCF park is “tightly packed together” and that skaters risk running into objects if they use the fixtures.
Although skaters do look at locations for ramps and halfpipes, Nazarí said skate parks are also places to spend time with friends. The community aspect is one Waterman emphasizes, especially considering LCF’s compact size.
“It’s kind of nice, too, because [visitors] meet other kids from the community, and they kind of interact and they get along pretty well,” she said. She also noted that years ago, the park hosted a skate class.
Nguyen believes the park serves the community, particularly its younger members.
“The city is proud to provide recreational amenities to all members of the community,” she said in an email. “The skate park meets an essential need by providing a space for youth to exercise, recreate and socialize.”
The LCF skate park may be too hidden amid the district offices and preschools for some skaters to realize it is there, Nazarí said. But he acknowledged there might be an advantage to its location.
“Next to a school, it might be better for people to go there after school,” he said. “But it’s the only benefit I can see.”