Humboldt was a geographical blind spot for traveling skateboarders. Skateparks are big and bad these days and the mother load of parks is Oregon. There are plenty in the Bay area too, but in between, for so long, there have been only a few little city parks. It’s like the difference between dinner and a piece of gum.
The opening of the Eureka Skatepark has changed that fact for the area. Humboldt county is now on the skate map in a big way on top of giving new little skate groms something to do.
The existence of a better and bigger skatepark in Eureka isn’t a bad thing for the smaller Arcata Park. It’s getting a much needed break,and the tiny Sunset neighborhood kids can dust off their scooters without fear of ruining a “big boy” line. The Skateboarders themselves are happy for the break too, not that it won’t hold a permanent place, being the first and home park for many of them. The novelty of Eureka is huge right now. The North Coast Skateboardng community is, to put it lightly, super pumped. Eureka Park has elements that the Arcata park lacks. The section of over-vert
in Eureka is completely new to the area. Pool coping, as in, that bit of top lip around a swimming pool, has been installed around bowls and has been described as “heaven to grind.” And anyone who has spent enough time skating Arcata Park knows that the key to the park is to memorize the intricacies of the uneven transitions. It’s got cement personality for sure. You don’t even have to think about it in Eureka. The transition is, most likely, smooth.
Skateparks in the area have been rocking and rolling a lot lately, getting attention and construction. The Eureka Park was the pet project of Eureka City Council member Jeff Leonard who was integral to the fundraising for the park. It started when Jan Bulinski, whose
son had a skate ramp in her backyard was watching a city council meeting in 2003.
Eureka was shelving the idea of putting in a skatepark and she thought she’d do something about it. Bulinski called Leonard and together they took a table down to the Thursday Night Summer Concerts.
“We put our table up and basically said “give us some money,” said Leonard.
It was the first step to the massive scale fundraising that went into getting the park built. “The first year we were doing things like selling T-shirts, and after a while we had $2,000. We needed more like $500,000,” said Leonard.
They rethought their strategy.
“I think that the success of the skate park really shocked the people who donated. I told them it was a great cause and it was for the kids, but they really didn’t have a concept of how many kids it would affect and how great it would be. The skate world was not well represented in the larger community,” said Leonard. “My goal from the beginning is to give the sport a visible presence in the community. Everyone needs a chance to do what they love.”
Jeff Leonard grinding a rail at the opening He even got in a run on opening day.
The Arcata skatepark is planning an overhaul, the McKinleyville Park is still on the agenda and the Eureka Park has more construction plans.
These are fueled, in part, by Valerie Reed. Reed has made giving skateboarders somewhere to skate her personal mission and she does it with an exacting authority. She makes things happen. For every inch of construction there are city council meetings and phone calls and paperwork, things that take an organizational flare that most do not possess.
“I am a local Yurok Native. I really do feel like it takes a community to raise a child”, said Reed. “I grew up riding horses and we had a lot of freedom to ride wherever we wanted. That freedom isn’t there any more. It’s just like skateboarding. That freedom to ride wherever kids
want isn’t there any more for them. We have to give them places to do what they love to do.”
Reed’s whole family rides skateboards. Her stepson, Casey Sores, won his under 13 division in the last Arcata Skate Competition.
The largely separate projects of Eureka, Arcata and McKinleyville are about to be blanketed under organization called the North Coast Skateboard Association, NCSA for short.
“It’s a grassroots non profit separate from any political entity,” said Reed. “It’s different when a political organization is involved. Things are approached differently.”
The association is currently involved with Phase II of the Arcata Park. Basically the city of Arcata as OK’d a plan to rip up the grass surrounding the skatepark and put in street obstacles and maybe a pool. This is a win/win for skaters and the city because maintenance of the grass takes time and money from the city. They haven’t promised any money. It is understood that the bulk of the money for this is to be raised by the skate community. The same is true for the proposed skatepark in McKinleyville. Grants will be written for, events will be scheduled, money will be raised — slowly but surely.
Arcata Skateboarder Steve Melillo was skating on the long awaited opening day of the Eureka Park.
“There were a bunch of kids there I hadn’t seen before and two or three really good ones that I’d never seen,” said Melillo. “That was surprising.”
He was impressed with the park and has spent quite a bit of time there since it opened.
“The Eureka park is great. It has bigger transitions, different obstacles and it’s just better (compared to the Arcata Park),” said Melillo.
If the NCSA gets their way, there will be a buffet of skateable spots all over the county.
Look for future skatepark fundraisers in Savage Henry Magazine.