Skateboards were mostly put aside Wednesday night at Skater's Point in Santa Barbara for an hourlong community meeting focused on how to maintain a positive image for the skate park and the youth who frequent the concrete space.
Skateboarders of all ages and some community members joined together in the discussion dubbed “Speak Up for Skateboarding” and hosted by the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department and the Goleta Skateboarding Movement.
The first-of-its-kind event was organized following this summer’s conflict between the city and local skateboarders who use the park along Cabrillo Boulevard near Stearns Wharf.
Goleta Skateboarding Movement co-chair Elliott Rebuck stood atop a ramp in the park’s center to address the crowd, explaining that the forward-thinking discussion could help the movement’s efforts to design and build new skate parks for the Goleta Valley.
“It’s more about finding solutions,” Rebuck said. “We’re here to just listen.”
Park users were asked to skate up and air concerns and challenges that didn’t dwell on the city-enforced, three-day park closure, which was prompted June 30 after several park users threw water balloons at arts vendors and pedestrians along the waterfront, openly used drugs and insulted responding parks staff.
City staff ended the closure a day early to allow use on the Fourth of July after skateboarders cut chains surrounding the park multiple times, ripped down fliers and continued using the park’s ramps.
Free pizza and a chance to win raffle tickets enticed some of the young speakers, who called the park “a second home” that allows them to stay active and out of trouble.
“This place is rad,” said a skater who lives in Ojai.
Jim Fitzpatrick, who was instrumental in building the skate park, told the crowd that the park was just one of three others like it when it was built in 2000. Today there are more than 2,600 throughout the country.
“They all started right here,” Fitzpatrick said. “Tonight I just want to remind you that this park might be important to you as an individual, but this park is known throughout the world. There were hundreds of people in the community who have made this park happen. We need to work with them so this park has a solid place in the community.”
One young skater said building more skate parks might help keep kids from being bored with the same park and throwing water balloons.
James Sperlin, 15, spoke about the small number of park users who use drugs — many who don’t even skate there — and ruin the park’s reputation.
“It’s just not really fair,” he said.
Some parents voiced concerns about leaving their younger, impressionable kids in the company of much older kids, and others suggested cordoning off a special area so that smaller children don’t get run over.
The meeting concluded with organizers reminding skaters to keep safety in mind, not to act aggressively and to continue thinking of ways they could help improve the image of both the park and its users.