Even though you may not know it, there’s a new skate park in town. In March, the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District (IVRPD) opened a skate program in Estero Park. On any given day you may see young people or college students trying out the ramps and rails.
For the moment, it is located in front of the YMCA Isla Vista Teen Center in Estero Park, near the basketball courts. It is in a fenced off area with ramps and rails lining the sides. The skating features include a wedge ramp and a half pipe. While not as impressive as the skate park downtown on Cabrillo Boulevard, it has made some skaters happy.
“This is a start,” said Drew Maxwell, a UCSB graduate. “I think it’s a good start up for ramps. They could be incorporated with new ramps.”
Paul LeSage, interim general manager for the IVRPD, said that the temporary skate park was put in place to make sure that people in the community knew that plans for a permanent skate park were going forward. He said that skaters who attended meetings about a skate park may not have understood how long such a process takes. He said that they might have been thinking in terms of weeks, instead of months or years. “We had to do this as a show of good faith,” LeSage said.
The ramps and rails in the temporary skate park cost about $5,000. Le Sage said that the temporary skate park was a “work in progress.” At first, the skate park was only open Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. This quickly changed. Now the park is open all day. LeSage said there was also an attendant on duty at the beginning, but IVRPD now just posts the rules and lets people use the facility. He said that this is the way other skate parks do it. “That’s the way skate parks are evolving,” he said.
So far, LeSage said he hasn’t had any complaints since the first week when a skater snuck into the park after dark. Since the park has been open during the day, he said there hasn’t been any other formal complaints. He said that keeping people out of the skate park after dark would be instrumental to making a permanent park work for community members. “If we do a good job of keeping people off it after dark . . . I think that’s key to having a permanent park,” he explained.
In the past, community members have opposed having a skate park at Estero Park because they were worried about noise, people congregating late at night, and the lack of bathrooms and restaurants. At a community meeting, locals asked the IVRPD board to investigate other locations for a skate park. The board eventually voted that Estero Park would be the best place for a permanent site, but it is asking skaters to make this palatable for local residents.
In the IVRPD skate park rules it states that “The behavior of temporary Skate Program users will determine whether or not a permanent skate park will be built in Isla Vista.”
For some people, like UCSB graduate Drew Maxwell, not having a skate park is just as big a concern. He said that area teens need to have a place to congregate and do something positive. If not, he said they would get into other activities, that weren’t so productive, like drinking and smoking. Maxwell also said that some I.V. parents may not be able to, or see the need to, drive their kids to the downtown skate park when they want to go skateboarding. He said this forces the kids to choose unsavory options, or skateboard in areas where they shouldn’t.
LeSage said he envisioned a skate park as a place where UCSB students could skateboard next to I.V. youth. “What I’m hoping for is an interaction of both at the same time. That would be good,” he said. He added that he thought that seeing and interacting with UCSB students might get the younger skaters thinking about following in their footsteps, and attending college.
But in order for this area to become a real mecca for skaters, Maxwell said the ground beneath the ramps and rails would have to change. It is not smooth enough to make skateboarding easy and fun, he said. “If the ground wasn’t so rough, I’d be here every day.” While repaving the area or putting down some form of wooden flooring may be cost prohibitive, Maxwell said that it was important to offer local kids a good place to skate. “If someone makes it better for them . . . that would be very nice,” he explained.
While the temporary skate park may not be perfect, there are plans to make improvements. According to Le Sage, new basketball courts will be laid out in the park, and the skating area will be moved to one of the new half courts.
If things go as planned, the permanent skate park will be built once the designs have been approved by the IVRPD, and Santa Barbara County. The permanent skate park project will cost about three quarters of a million dollars, LeSage said.
While the skate park arrived in I.V. with little fanfare, time will tell whether it is embraced by the community. If it is, skaters might be racing down those bowls and catching some air before they know it.