Finding the Proper Home

In 2004 – nearly a decade ago, a small group of skaters sharing a common dream came together, writing a petition in efforts to bring another “world-class” skatepark to the state of Oregon. Now formally known as SES (Skaters for Eugene Skateparks), the group has gained the needed support of skaters and the community of Eugene. Eight years of diligent work to transform these dreams and petition signatures is finally paying off. These dreams are soon to become reality.

Although the first skateboard invented dates back to the 1950s, it wasn’t until the early 1990s that the skateboard industry exploded – eventually finding an international market. According to Concrete Disciples, a web-based global directory for every skatepark ever made, over 2,500 skateparks are currently up and running in the United States. Over 10 percent of these parks (215+) can be found on the west states of Washington, Oregon and California.

The “Burnside Skatepark” in Portland and “Lincoln City Skatepark” in, you guessed it, Lincoln City, have been placed on numerous lists of the world’s best skateparks. ComplexRides – a website dedicated to extreme sports (BMX, skateboarding and in-line skating) has Burnside and Lincoln City listed as the #1 and #2 best skateparks in their list of “The 25 Best International Skate Parks”. Impressive is an understatement when describing the existing skate parks in Oregon. Bringing a third world-class skatepark to the state seems excessive to some, as it would only emphasize the dominance the west coast has over the east in the skateboard industry (California currently leads all other states with over 170 skateparks). Others believe that Eugene is the perfect location for the park. After years, a verdict has been reached.

SES finally received approval from Eugene City Council on October 24, 2012 to go forward with the construction of the Washington-Jefferson (WJ) Skatepark. SES and Eugene’s Parks and Open Space Planning Manager, Neil Bjorklund, have spent countless months collaborating in efforts to design, finance and construct a city-approved skatepark. At last, the light at the end of the tunnel is illuminated.

Bjorklund believes that the new skatepark will bring positive attention and new visitors to the city of Eugene. In his explanation regarding the WJ Skatepark, Bjorklund expresses a shared vision between SES and himself, representing the Eugene Department of Public Works. “This is intended to be a top-quality facility with full cover for year-round public use, rain or shine.”

Jessica Blaine, board member of SES, expressed a clear, smart vision for what the highly anticipated skatepark could bring to the city of Eugene.

“Fundamentally, the Washington Jefferson Park is underused, and this project will bring the area to life, joining the thriving Whitaker neighborhood with downtown and the historic 5th Street district.”

Amongst those who are expected to benefit from the new skatepark include Tactics Boardshop – an international distributer of extreme sports gear and apparel based in Eugene. Although over 90 percent of all revenue is generated from online orders, Tactics feels confident that the increase in skater traffic will result in an increase of in-store sales.  While this is great news for Tactics, as well as the city of Eugene, not everybody is excited about another skatepark finding home on the west coast.

“As a street skater I think a lot of those ‘world class’ parks out west are way too gnarly. There is a big problem with people who don’t skate street designing skateparks for street skaters” said Templeton Elliott.

Working as a columnist for Skateboarder Magazine for over seven years and being the owner/manager of a skate blog, “Mostly Skateboarding”, for nearly eight gives Elliott the credentials to be considered an expert in the skateboard industry. Despite traveling around the world to cover and write about some of the best skaters, he enjoys staying close to his roots. Raised in Virginia and currently working out of New York, Elliot shows no shame in being a ‘homer’ to the east coast.

Justin James, team member and employee of Tactics Boardshop compares the skateparks on the west and east coasts as being “…completely different. The east is all urban and street skating. Oregon parks are all about transitions (ramps).

Elliott swallowed his hometown pride and told the truth about skateboarding.

“The skateboard industry is based in California, so for a professional or someone wanting to be around skateboarding, Los Angeles, San Diego or San Francisco are the places to be.”

“California is like, the mecca of skateboarders”, concurs Justin James.

When traced back to its roots, skateboarding derives from surfers in southern California wanting to “surf the streets”.  Wheels were attached to a modified surfboard and the skateboard was born. Ask any skater to describe what it’s like to ride a skateboard and they will tell you that it’s like surfing. In similar fashion, surfers will tell you that their craft is like riding a skateboard, even though surfing started nearly a century before the first skateboard.

Spy is one of the most popular, internationally-recognized extreme sports companies in the industry today. They specialize in skateboard, snowboarding and surfing gear and apparel.

In efforts to connect and relate surfing to skateboarding on the west coast, Spy’s surf team rider, Blake Fisher points out that, “Every great surfer either lives in California or Hawaii ‘cause the weather. Riding conditions are usually perfect and the skaters need good riding conditions too. If you think about it, rain sucks way more for skaters than surfers ‘cause at least the rain brings us waves.”

Despite improper grammar, Fisher does make a valid point – skaters are dependent on good weather.

Elliott shares his east coast experiences and provides further insight on the role weather plays for skaters.

“I do think [that] in general, the west coast is better for skaters because the weather is better. The ground is smoother from less freezing and thawing causing cracks. In general things are newer out west.”

If nice, dry weather is necessary, why build the projected “world-class” WJ Skatepark in a city with over 50 inches of average annual rainfall?

Blaine, from the SES Board, answers this one with ease.

“The WJ Skatepark will be the largest, fully-lit, covered park in the country– joining our neighbors all along the west coast as a destination skatepark.”

The largest covered skatepark in the country? Yeah, that should bring some commerce to the city of Eugene. Not to mention how much additional attention the west coast skate scene will receive.  The only thing left to do now is build it.

Dreamland Skateparks has been eagerly waiting since 2010 to carry out this task. Now that funding has been established and city approval has been given, construction of the 20,000+ sq. foot skatepark can begin as early as January 2013.

Selecting the right designer was an important task for both SES and Eugene City Council. After months of examining park design proposals, the two agreed on Dreamland Skateparks to be the designer for the future WJ Skatepark.

Mark Scott is the owner and CEO of Dreamland Skateparks. In the company’s mission statement, Scott writes, “Dreamland is a small, family owned company with enough resources to complete any size project. Our staff includes actual professional skateboarders, a licensed landscape architect, and concrete master craftsmen.” Clearly, the accredited skaters, architects and craftsmen mixed with ‘family owned business’ tag were good enough reasons to trust them with the $800,000+ project.

This monumental leap of progress in the eight-year-project gives SES, Eugene City Council and everybody in between reason to rejoice.

“I’ve been hearing rumors and stuff about a new skate park in Eugene since I was in high school so it’s nice to hear they’re finally doing something” expressed Paul Sanchez, a senior, mathematics major riding his skateboard on the University of Oregon campus.

As a Board Member of SES, Jessica Blaine, has been involved with the WJ Skatepark project for over three years. Her words echo the thoughts of every skateboarder in Eugene, if not the entire west coast.

“It’s been a long time coming… I just can’t wait to see it open!

-Brandon Sandberg

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The Amazon Skatepark (above) was constructed in 1993 and is the first skate park built in Eugene, Ore. Despite the constant wear and tear from the riders and weather, the Amazon Skatepark still stands – even more vividly so now than back in ‘93.  Spray-paint covers the skate-able concrete.  An array of colors, messages and images are smeared from the almost-20 years of rubber skateboard wheels screeching across the pavement. Still, inspirational quotes and funny pictures are detectable. “Be yourself and say what you mean, cause people who mind, don’t matter and people that matter won’t mind” read the scribbled words of Dr. Seuss. To the uneducated mind, this artwork may be mistaken for vandalism, but a deeper look can reveal the underlying message within the art. Similar to art, skateboarding is a craft in which everyone is unique –in terms of both style and product. The city of Eugene has been in constant support of public skateparks even since the construction of the Amazon Skatepark. Since 2000, four additional skate parks, including Cal Young, Churchill, Bethel and Trainsong have been built in efforts to meet the demands of skaters for more skateparks on the west coast. There is rumor that professional skateboarder and “Godfather” of skateboarding, Rodney Mullen, has used clips of film of him skating at the Amazon Skatepark. Mullen’s style is incomparable to any other skater. Before transitional skating became popular (especially in Oregon and the Northwest), skaters used to do tricks without ramps and halfpipes. These flat-ground tricks, mostly invented by Rodney Mullen, are the fundamentals of street skateboarding.

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The Washington-Jefferson Park in Eugene, Ore. has been considered the future location for the WJ Skatepark for several years now. Currently, the underutilized park sits below the I-5 bridge at Washington and Jefferson streets. This location was sought out by SES in 2008 and has potential to accommodate for heavy traffic – both vehicles and skateboards. Due to the noisy freeway bridge above, few businesses would find the location suitable. However, a skatepark is already a noisy facility, making the accessible location a prime destination for skaters to skate.  Aside from the rare sighting of a dog walker or jogger, the Washington-Jefferson Park is not what most people envision. Located in the City Center of Eugene, a lot of renovation still needs to be done before the WJ Skatepark can be publicly accessible skatepark. Fortunately, there is time. As for now, debris and trash continue to travel with every gust of wind across the damp, muddy soil. City concerns regarding the area are not difficult to see. Surrounded by lower-income, the I-5 bridge offers shelter for several people living in poverty in Eugene. City Council’s hope is that with the construction of the WJ Skatepark will result in more traffic and commerce into the area. The location of the centralized skatepark has potential to be a popular attraction, not just for skateboard enthusiasts, but for tourists and travelers as well. We can sit here and talk about all the “potential” the area shows, but ultimately the area surrounding the WJ Skatepark will be as great as the city and people of Eugene make it.

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