Like most changes in towns like Carpinteria, it all started with a batch of motivated parents: In the 1990s, Jan and Kevin Silk, Johnny Oliver, Barry Horowitz, Matt Roberts, and Mike Lesh saw that kids needed a place to skateboard, and the city offered up what is now the train station parking lot for a temporary skatepark.
At that time, skateboarding was still a fringe activity. Many of the dads had learned in the ’60s and ’70s with roller skate wheels nailed to planks of wood. But in a town steeped in surf and skate culture, the park was not a hard sell.
It took years to build, and when it was finally finished, it was rad. It was supposed to be a temporary alternative while the city got their ducks in a row to get a permanent skatepark constructed, but kids grow up and move on, and parents lose steam. The wooden park fell into disrepair and was torn down in 1998, even though skateboarding itself was growing like crazy. For instance, just two years later in 2000, the City of Santa Barbara became home to one of the first permanent skateparks in California. (While Carpinteria is a special place, it is very much cut off from Santa Barbara when you’re a teenager.)
The push for an in-ground skatepark finally regained momentum in 2009 when local kids (now adults) Jason Lesh, Jason Campbell, and Peter Bonning got involved. They showed up at the Rincon Classic — our big surf contest — passed out petitions, and rallied the surf community. They showed up at City Council and convinced the government to get on board. And with the help of another local, John Haan, they secured 501c3 status and legitimized what had been a scrappy movement for 20 years.
In 2015, 30,000 square feet next to City Hall was written over to the Carp Skatepark Foundation. The agreement included lights for nighttime skating, a stage for amplified music, and a designated space for food trucks. And just this summer, the plans were ratified by the California Coastal Commission and City Council — a massive step forward. All that stands now between Carp skaters and their own hometown park is a few hundred thousand dollars. I know our community will step up to fund the remainder.
In so many ways, skateboarding — which would have been in the Olympics this summer — is an effective youth development activity. It teaches hard work, creative thinking, being part of a community, friendship, enjoying the outdoors, overcoming hurdles, and fostering cross-cultural and racial connections. And it’s quite literally for everyone: Moms, kids, grandparents, and professionals alike will enjoy the new space. Maybe most importantly, it gives our most important asset and most vulnerable demographic — our youth — a place to go, be themselves, and have fun.
One of the most meaningful things I have witnessed from skateboarding is the multigenerational relationships it can help flourish. My husband, Todd, is 38 and he skates alongside kids from high school. They watch over each other: If a kid suddenly stops showing up at the skatepark, they ask around about them. If one starts making bad choices, the older skaters hold them accountable. It’s a beautiful way of looking out for each other. Todd also brings boards to the park for kids who might not be able to afford one. He does this because he grew up poor and the older skaters took care of him.
Our park is being designed by Dreamland Skateparks, the gold standard builders for in-ground concrete parks. It will have features that appeal to both pros and beginners and be a place you can truly never outgrow. I look forward to our neighbors having the chance to walk their dogs along the bluffs and stop at a bench to watch people skate.
The Carp Skatepark Foundation has raised $450,000 of the $850,000 needed. You can donate at carpskatepark.org. A Buy a Brick campaign was also just launched, where you can quite literally put your name in the ground. For major donations, contact Peter at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a chance for our community to truly invest in our future generations.
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