Isla Vista may be welcoming a new skate park after a dozen local skaters attended an Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District (IVRPD) meeting in December to protest converting PerfectPark into a parking lot.
IVRPD board members previously planned to use PerfectPark, located at the intersection of Embarcadero del Mar and Embarcadero del Norte, as a space to install 14 parking spots. Parking costs at the lot were expected to bring in about $10,000 a year, with the funds being used to repair broken fences and restore bathrooms at Anisq’Oyo’ Park. While skaters were able to persuade trustees to keep the lot open, board members are still debating the construction of a skate park due to budgetary constraints.
At the helm of the movement to salvage the land for a permanent skate park is the two-year-old Goleta Skateboard Movement (GSM). According to GSM co-president Elliott Rebuck, GSM’s three main objectives are advocacy for the skateboarding community, education and outreach and supporting and constructing skate spots.
Despite being around for only two years, the GSM is comprised of volunteers who all collaborate to work toward an enhancement of the Goleta Valley skateboarding heritage through recreational opportunities offered to the community and its youth, according to Rebuck.
“The volunteers are lifelong skaters who first got involved with skate park advocacy, design and construction well over a decade ago,” Rebuck said.
Rebuck said city officials do not often take into account the community’s significant demand for a skate park and oftentimes overlook the health, safety and economic advantages a successful skate park can have. For example, the park can act as a community gathering center, attract tourists, promote healthy and active lifestyles and maintain skater safety by providing a smooth space to train instead of forcing skaters to practice over irregular surfaces.
“Once a skate park is constructed, it will provide a low-cost recreational alternative to organized sports, encourage athleticism, fitness and confidence-building amongst its users, while simultaneously breaking down barriers of race, gender, age, religion, economic status or language spoken,” Rebuck said.
According to IVRPD General Manager Rodney Gould, a skate park would be a good addition to Isla Vista for its socio-cultural benefits similar to those described by Rebuck. However, Gould said such benefits would only apply if the skate park is kept safe, well-maintained and drug- and alcohol-free.
“It’s an activity that crosses all age, economic and racial barriers,” Gould said. “I see it as a way to narrow cultural divides and open doors to interaction and understanding between the different factions of the community.”
Gould said making progress on implementing a skate park and other types of projects may oftentimes be difficult due to the short-term length of the Parks and Recreation District positions.
“One of the major challenges for the District has been the turnover of board members and management,” Gould said. “If you include short-term interim GMs, I am the thirteenth General Manager in as many years. Board members also tend to come and go quickly, largely due to graduating students. With the rapid turnover, it’s hard to keep momentum going.”
However, the most daunting problem facing the completion of a skate park is funding, according to Gould.
“The District operates on a fixed income that gets only a small adjustment annually,” Gould said. “The adjustment is only enough to cover daily operations and doesn’t leave money for major capital projects … The last thing we want is an awesome skate park that falls into disrepair due to lack of money.”
Rebuck said while he understands the pressure within money constraints, he feels that more grassroots organizing efforts are necessary in order to convince the city of a skate park’s importance.
“So far the community hasn’t made building one a priority,” Rebuck said. “Our next step is to recruit more advocates within Isla Vista’s skate community, gain support from non-skateboarding residents and business owners, then collaborate with the IVRPD and city to develop a shared vision that will meet the demand.”
Currently, the GSM is also working with several other potential skate park spots along the Hollister corridor and is promoting and attending design workshops for these sites.