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Dogtown Gets its Skatepark

By Teresa Rochester

April 26 -- Three decades ago, the well-manicured stretch of beachfront south of Bay Street was a ramshackle neighborhood known as Dogtown, whose young inhabitants rolled and raged and revolutionized the sport of skateboarding.

Today, nearly 30 years later, Dogtown is a slogan printed on T-shirts, the boys are men, skate legends have been immortalized in the newly released documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys" -- and skateboarding is still alive and well in Santa Monica.

But as the newest generation of "shredders" will tell you, places to skate are limited and skating on the street gets you "hassled." What the city needs, they say, is a skatepark. Santa Monica officials agree, and Thursday night they unveiled plans for a 30,000 square-foot skatepark (about the size of four tennis courts) at Memorial Park on Olympic Boulevard.

"We're getting excited about this project," Brett Horner of the City's Community and Cultural Services Division told members of the Recreation and Parks Commission at the special meeting. "We hope people will think we have a good location for this plan."

Memorial Park was tapped for the $570,000 project because it is not adjacent to homes, is centrally located and has parking. The money is budgeted for this current fiscal year.

At the meeting, some older skaters urged City officials and commissioners to consider locating a skatepark at the beach, which, after all, was where today's style of skateboarding originated, but younger skaters said either place would be fine as long as a park was built.

"The birthplace of skating was at the beach. Not Memorial Park" said Chuck Allord, a Santa Monica native who was part of the city's early skate scene. "The birthplace of skateboarding needs a big park, a 30-foot pipe."

"The fact that we don't have a park and we're being kicked out of street space, where do we skate?" asked John Adams Middle School student Alex Talon. "The scene is so big in Santa Monica, we've been skating here for so long, we deserve a great park."

While City officials worried that a beach park would draw people from outside the region, several commissioners asked them to explore the idea in the future. One option could be to put temporary skate ramps in a beach parking lot during the off-season until Memorial Park is completed sometime in late 2003 or early 2004.

"That (Memorial Park) should not be considered as the end of the process but a step," Commissioner Steven Mount said. "It's true Santa Monica is the birthplace of skateboarding."

Work is already underway on the skatepark, with officials preparing a request for proposals from design-build teams, a process that was cheered by park supporters who urged staff to hire a firm that specialized in skateparks. The RFP will likely go out during early summer.

The community design process, which will allow residents to offer input and opinions on the project, will take place in the summer and fall and will be followed with the schematic design for the park and environmental studies in the late fall.

The environmental studies will undergo public review in the winter of 2002 and 2003, with construction slated to begin in spring 2003.

Currently there is one other skatepark in Santa Monica at the Boys and Girls Club, which the City partially funds. But it is not enough, as skateboarding has continued to mushroom in popularity locally and around the country, which boasts an estimated 9 million skaters.

There are more than 800 skateparks in the United States with an additional 300 under construction.  
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