The Means Behind the Madness

So far we’ve covered a lot. From the beginning of parks to modern day skate parks. What does this all mean? Iain Borden explained how skaters have perceived space and architecture differently from other other people. He said that “This is one of skateboarding’s central features, adopting and exploiting a given terrain,” and using it for their own distinct purposes. As parks began to take on a more utilitarian role in society and people started to control park landscapes more, the inevitability of skate culture intertwining with the evolution of parks was being solidified. Skaters rely on architecture to challenge themselves in their sport. Parks came to create unique architecture that would provide such challenges.

The major convergence between parks and skate culture began to happen in the mid 1960s. In 1966 a skatepark opened in Carlsbad, CA, but it only had some shallow concrete hills and did not provide much of a challenge. A couple of other skateparks opened in other parts of the country that same year. Another wave of skateparks opened up in the early 1970s. This one was directed toward commercial skaters. By the late 1970s, skateparks were popping up all over the place. (Borden)

Because parks have been seen as places to relax, many times there has been opposition from community members when skateparks were proposed in an area. People didn’t like the idea of having their parks used by teens for “active” recreation. This type of thinking has created obstacles for people like Lou Andrade from the Hayward Area Recreation and Parks District (H.A.R.D.) to overcome. According to Andrade, this attitude extends beyond skating and into any youth activity that people can perceive as threatening. He told me about an incident in a park where a fight from the basketball court spilled out into the playground. The neighbors freaked out and had the courts shut down. They wanted them shut down permanently, but some local homeowners, guys in their 20s and 30s who played basketball, didn’t like that idea. They got together and raised some money to have the basketball courts moved away from the playground. Some of the neighbors still threw a fit, but the project went through and there weren’t any more problems. According to Andrade, this kind of public attitude exists toward teens in general. Most people think that any teens who are engaging in recreation without some sort of strict structure enforced are up to no good. That just isn’t true, plain and simple.

Here in the Bay Area, especially in the Hayward Area, a lot of effort has been made to bridge this gap…to educate people concerning the importance of unstructured recreation, especially for older adolescents. The majority of park systems all over the place focus on young children and older generations. Almost any park you go to will have a playground, benches, maybe a grill or two, a place to feed the birds and just enjoy the beauty of the place. Sometimes there are ball fields or volleyball nets, but there is rarely anywhere for adolescents to engage in singular activity. Skateparks change that. One kid with a skateboard can come into a skatepark and engage in activity without having to form a team. This opens more possibilities for kids. If there are more kids at the park, they can work together and trade tricks. If not, the kid can practice alone. Either way, the activity is not contingent upon having people there to play with. Lou Andrade said he wished there were more sports other than skateboarding and basketball that provided this kind of individuality that he could program for.

This is an ongoing, developing story. Not everyone in the Bay Area is as receptive or accepting of skate culture as Hayward is. In Pleasanton there seems to be a general sentiment that skateboarding is detrimental to the kids’ mental health. The opposition to the skatepark addition in Golden Gate Park shows that San Francisco has its own issues with skate culture. (SF Examiner) This is further exemplified by the strict rules concerning skateboard enforced by San Francisco State University.

How this all will play out is a mystery. There is a lot left to look into. I’ve looked at how parks evolved into skateparks, but there is a lot of evolution concerning skateparks themselves. I touched a little bit on the transition from traditional parks into skate plazas, but there is a lot to cover in between. If we ignore the nuances over seas and just stick to California and the Bay Area, skate parks differ in many ways.

Skatepark in Escondido, CA.

The above ground structures, like the one in Escondido, CA feature mostly ramps and rails. Depending on the types of ramps used, they are often considered to be beginner or intermediate parks. Some of these parks can feature some challenging ramps for advanced skaters. Every once in a while you’ll see one that also features pipes, but usually those come with integrated above ground and in ground parks.

There are also quite a few in ground versions, mostly meant to imitate pools, like the one in Etnies Skatepark of Lake Forest, CA.

Proposed park in San Luis Obispo.

More elaborate parks have come about as well, like the one in Anaheim, CA and a similar proposed one in San Luis Obispo. The unique channels and bowls of this type of park set it apart.

The evolution of these parks seems to reflect Iain Borden’s interpretation of skaters seeing space and architecture from a unique perspective. As the unique space of these parks evolves, perhaps that perspective can gradually begin to permeate into other aspects of society. Until society understands the attraction skaters have to certain types of architecture, we will not understand the evolution of the architectural aspects of parks into skate parks, nor will we understand the divergent paths of different types of skateparks. There are a lot of questions left unanswered, and a lot of areas left open for discussion. I’m sure there are many things that I have not covered here that someone else would be able to see as a potential off-shoot from this topic. Feel free to pursue any subject that interests you…you have my permission 🙂


H.A.R.D. and Ghosts

I was finishing up some business I had with one of the directors of the Hayward Area Recreation and Parks District, Lou Andrade, when he mentioned that H.A.R.D. had put out a historical brochure a couple of years ago. I decided to head over to the main office and see if I could check it out. The brochure is pretty interesting. Covering the time spanning from its inception in 1944 until the turn of the twenty-first century, it gives a brief description of how H.A.R.D. came to be and what it does for the community.

Hayward Area Recreation and Park District: A Brief History 1944 - 2000

The third page of this booklet gives the H.A.R.D. mission statement which “is dedicated to improving the quality of life for citizens of all ages by providing a variety of recreational activities, special events, facilities, and services that encourage life-long learning fitness and fun.” This shows a commitment to the community that has been embedded from the start.

H.A.R.D. solidified through a community effort out of a number of other organizations, including the W.P.A. Members of the community went to the Hayward City Council with a report in 1941. They wanted a study to establish “an ongoing recreation and park program.” December 11, 1944 – The Park District was created after the residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of it.

The Hayward Area Recreation and Park District is considered a “special district.” This means that in the eyes of the state of California, it is its own governmental body in a specifically defined space. The Wright Act of 1887 allowed communities to establish special districts which elected or appointed board members who would govern independently within the limits given by the state’s constitution and laws. Special districts can tax, decide what types of services to provide, sell bonds, and create their own administrative structures. Special recreation and parks districts have shown that they can satisfy the needs of their communities by cooperating with government to avoid duplicating services.

H.A.R.D. offers a wealth of programs and services to people of all ages. From Senior programs and programs for the disabled to the Youth Enrichment Program, this booklet gives a brief description of just about everything H.A.R.D. offers. In the back of the brochure there is a map showing the different parks and facilities run by H.A.R.D.

Map of H.A.R.D. Locations

Run by H.A.R.D. is Mervin Morris Park, across from Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo. A feature of this park is Cameron’s Skate Area. I spoke to Lou Andrade about the history behind this. The concept of adding a skate element had already been considered. The idea was put aside because of lack of support, even though the location was ideal. The park offered excellent visibility. The proximity to the high school also made it attractive for a positive alternative for teen recreation. The idea was revived when a home-schooled young man approached H.A.R.D. wanting to know what needed to be done to get a skatepark. The boy and his mother suggested the Mervin Morris site. The Board recommended that they get community support and to raise some money for the project. He was able to gain support from the home owner’s association and even raise $5000. This project allowed the playground to be moved closer to the bathrooms, which a lot of people found to be positive. The skate area was named for the boy who made it all happen.

I find it interesting that in San Francisco skaters are trying to find community support to expand facilities on the the southeastern side of Golden Gate Park. It seems that the community may not be as receptive as the one in Hayward, though the park service is still considering the expansion. I hope that they go through with it. Parks and recreation services all over spend so much time focusing on the needs of small children and the elderly that they neglect the needs of everyone else in between. Places like skate parks and dog parks make up that difference.

On a side note, while looking through things having to do with skating I found some interesting things online. It seems that there are some skaters haunting places in California. In Merced there is said to be a headless skater who haunts the Applegate Skate Park. There is also apparently a little boy in Simi Valley with scraped up arms and face who will skate away on his skateboard at unimaginable speed when somebody tries to help him.