A Grand Proposal
By Chriss Goschie
After surviving constant threat from the transient population, and its brief home to the Eugene members of Occupy, the Washington/Jefferson Park area as finally been given a chance at validity within the community through the recently approved Washington/Jefferson skatepark project.
Having been in development actively for five years, but dating back almost a decade, the project proposes a complete overhaul of the area – installing the largest covered skate park in Eugene. Lobbied heavily by Skaters for Eugene Skateparks (SES), and the local skating community, including Tactics Board Shop, the unanimous vote will most likely bolster an almost stagnant skate scene in the Eugene area, as well as offer local skaters a chance to promote a better image of themselves to the community.
The proposal ran in to some resistance, of course. Safety being the top priority from both sides, it could easily have been the primary reason the plan was rejected. Residing in a conspicuous location within Eugene, underneath the on-ramp to Interstate 105, the park is home to local transients and illicit behavior. Coupled with the already negative view of skateboarders, fears from the community included the park attracting youth to an already dangerous area, worsening the situation, the skateboarding community, however, felt otherwise.
Area for the Proposed Skatepark
SES hopes the benefits will outweigh the potential risks, claiming that a developed park will dissuade patrons from criminal activity by caring for the park they’ve fought for. Along with a legal place to skate, the local scene will be bolstered as well, resulting in what SES hopes will be a better image of local skaters in Eugene.
Kameron Rich, an employee at Tactics Board Shop, is ecstatic about the parks approval, he thinks it will clean up the unkempt area, and help fight off bums. “Bringing activity to an otherwise off the grid area gets rid of crime in that area,” he said. It’s also a chance for an older generation to see what skateboarding today looks like.
Andy, another employee at Tactics, only sees the results as positive for the scene. “It brings more skaters to the city, and gives kids a place to go skate.” He mentions the benefits of providing older generations a chance to see skaters in a legal place, without bias generated from seeing a skater, and immediately connecting the illegal actions being perpetrated.
Tactics Board Shop
Tactics Board Shop can’t really complain though – located just two blocks from the parks designated area, business would explode for the local company. The employees would be hard pressed to find a flaw in what looks to be a win/win situation.
But the real winners, as the main proponents of the park will say, are the skateboarding youth in the city, as well as the city itself, benefiting from a new event center in a revamped and revitalized area of Eugene.
Skating Has Evolved
By Chriss Goschie
“There isn’t a typical skater anymore. If you look 10, 15 years ago, it gets more stereotypical,” said Kelly McIver, Communications Director for the University of Oregon Police Department. “It’s a common thing now, less of a niche.”
What McIver’s expressing is the paradigm shift in the skating community that’s occurred over the past decade. Looking back, McIver recalls “typical” skaters being male, age 12 – 25 and imprinted with a “slacker” attitude. “(They) probably had no reasonable occupation they were pursuing, and had enough time to master this craft,” McIver said.
Now, skating is one of the most prominent forms of communication around the University campus. There are girls, women, older skaters… The original image has changed drastically with time, along with the popularity of the activity.
Why is that?
For one, skaters are becoming parents. The 25 year-old “slackers” from a decade ago are in their mid-thirties, some with families, promoting skating through exposure to their kids. Two, the amount of exposure in such a supported industry would undoubtedly lead to familiarity, and thus, adaptation by the community.
Most people don’t use skateboards for tricks, they use them as a mode of transportation. Before, when the misconception of skaters being delinquents was the norm, driving them away as a preventative measure against illicit activity would be the goal. Now, it’s more a matter of protecting pedestrians from possible injury.
“Safety concerns from skateboarding revolve around walking paths,” said McIver. It goes for campus, as well as downtown. Accidents occur when people aren’t aware of their surroundings, and when there’s heavy congestion, as these two locations commonly have.
Libby Tower, Marketing and Public Relations Manager at the Hult Center, says skating is only a problem during the summer months. “When kids graduate they tend to come around again,” she says. The concern they have is simple, “it’s a liability issue. If someone hits a car or gets hit by a car… It can be troublesome for responsible adults.”
The image of skaters from the delinquent younger kids, skipping class and tagging walls is fading into memory, in the eyes of business owners and police officers. The concern now rests with their safety, and the safety of their patrons, a realistic concern of course.
This begs the question, when the Washington/Jefferson skatepark is finished, will this curtail the problems currently concerning the community regarding skateboarders? Proponents of the park think so.
Q & A: Colette Ramirez-Maddock
1. What’s your name, occupation, and association with the W/J Skatepark project?
My name is Colette Ramirez-Maddock, and I work for the city of Eugene at the River House outdoor program. I am a recreation program assistant, and at the River House I coordinate the skateboarding program, which consists of summer camps, classes, drop in programs and skateboard competitions.
My association with the project is that I’m on the city’s fund raising committee, working with partners to raise money for it.
2. Why was this such an important project, to you and the community?
It’s an important project to me because I have had the pleasure of seeing the benefit of skateboarding for the youth and adults in the community. Because we don’t have any covered skateparks now, installing a world class facility with benefit the community greatly by giving young people a place to go year round. It will draw more tourism to the community and has the potential to revitalize the park area.
3. How/why did you get involved?
I think because I work for the city and coordinate the skateboarding program, I’ve just been involved throughout the process. The competitions are fund raising for the project, I was identified for my involvement in the community and I believe in it.
4. What was the biggest challenge when it came to finalizing this project?
The biggest challenge in finalizing the project, cause it’s finalized to move forward, was addressing the community of homeless people that frequent there, and the illicit behavior that’s happened there. I know the city is working with organizations to work on how we handle the problem down there, and how we make it safe and vibrant for people.
5. Do you think the community’s image of skateboarders influenced the project at all?
I definitely think so. People in the community recognize that the population of skateboarders is growing, and community members want to give them a place to go. I often hear about how skateboarders shouldn’t be on sidewalks and riding on stairs, so lets give them someplace to go where it’s legal to skate. We’re recognizing this population subsection is participating in a legitimate sport and want to support youth doing it.
6. What are your future goals in relation to this community and project?
My future goals for this project are a desire to see the project finished and for it to be a vibrant space for all ages and multiple users. It’s not only going to be a skatepark but an urban plaza too, hopefully there will be food vendors and a place for events to happen. Just a place where more people can go and feel welcome.
With the revitalization of the 5th street area and the hotel being built, the Whiteaker area, the brewery area, the one piece that’s kind of missing is the skatepark project. So when people come and visit there will be a place to stay, places to eat, places to have fun and this skatepark. I want it to be a successful project and for the community to see that.
7. Is there anything I haven’t asked about that you’d like to bring up?
I wonder if this will be a draw for university students. It’s the largest lit public skatepark in the US and I’d love to see university students come out, venture out of the university district and utilize this park. Will this be something the university uses as a reason to come to school here?
By Chriss Goschie
Skateparks around Eugene offer plenty for a typical skater on a nice day, but pale in comparison to the proposed park in terms of it’s year round usability and lighting, a feature no other park currently possesses.
Emerald Park –
Churchill Skatepark –
Amazon Skatepark –
For Transportation –
For more information on the W/J Skatepark project, visit SK8EUG