Grover Beach skate park to reopen in March

Recreational opportunity was shuttered by budget cuts, but facility will now be run by the YMCA of SLO County

clambert@thetribunenews.comJanuary 12, 2013 

The South County Skate Park in Grover Beach will reopen in March, nearly a year after the city closed it to help cut a budget shortfall.

The YMCA of San Luis Obispo County has signed a one-year lease with the city to operate the popular skate park at 1750 Ramona Ave. A soft opening will be held March 1-3, with the grand opening set for March 23.

“We are super excited and positive about the Y taking over,” said Kathy Petker, Grover Beach’s parks and recreation program director.

Petker said she received daily calls from skaters immediately after the park was closed April 8 as part of a slew of cost-saving measures the city enacted to deal with a budget deficit.

“Most of the response was disheartened,” she said. “As parks and recreation professionals, the last thing we want to do is close a facility that is providing outdoor recreation opportunities.”

But at the time, the skate park had been costing the city money. In fiscal year 2009-10, city officials had to dip into the general fund to pay $9,600 in costs that user fees hadn’t covered, said Gayla Chapman, the city’s administrative services director.

In the 2011-12 fiscal year, the skate park cost the general fund about $4,000. Grover Beach had a reprieve in the 2010-11 fiscal year, thanks to a $7,500 grant that helped the city avoid spending money from its general fund on the park.

Jenifer Rhynes, CEO of the county’s YMCA, said it will cost the nonprofit $13,376 to operate the skate park for six months, from March through August. Three sponsors are helping to cover startup costs, including Wells Fargo, the 5 Cities Men’s Club and the Eco-Rotary Club.

The skate park, constructed in 1999, went through some growing pains after it opened. At the time, it was unfenced and unsupervised, and some park users ignored rules about wearing safety gear. There were also reports of smoking, consumption of alcohol and illegal drugs and vandalism.

A few years later, a chain-link fence was installed around the park, and the city decided to charge a fee and have it be supervised to ensure skaters were wearing helmets and safety pads. The YMCA agreed to supervise the park at that time.

Tyler Horton, who has taught skate camps at the park, said he remembers skating there before it was fenced, when it was a “sketchier” environment. Horton skated there for years, including after it was fenced, and thinks the park provides “a good outlet for kids.”

“Ever since the skate park closed, I’ve seen numerous amounts of kids skating on the street, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though there can be problems,” said Horton, now 19 and studying biology at Cal Poly. “I’m glad that they’re re-opening it because I know a lot of my friends stopped skating because we didn’t have it.”

He wondered, though, whether a user fee would dissuade some skaters from using the park.

There was an outcry from some park users and their families when the city started charging a $2 fee in 2002, but the park continued to average several hundred users a month.

How to get involved

A community meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. Feb. 11 at the Ramona Garden Park Center, 993 Ramona Ave., Grover Beach, to let people know about the reopening and solicit feedback.

A cleanup/work day will be held Feb. 23 at the skate park from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information or to volunteer, call the YMCA at 543-8235.

Also, a 5 Cities Skate Park Task Force was recently formed and is interested in having a junior high school student or high school student serve on it. Anyone interested in volunteering should call Linda Wingert at 781-3518, ext. 107.

Skate park hours are still being determined. The cost is still under consideration, but there will be a three-hour daily session fee, punch card and annual pass options. The anticipated cost is $1 per hour (or $3 for a three-hour session).

A skate camp will be held April 1-5. A logo contest for the park is also under way. To learn more about the South County Skate Park, go to www.sloymca.org/programs/south -county-skate-park.php or www.facebook.com/southcountyskatepark.

Coming Monday: Where efforts stand to build a new skate park in San Luis Obispo.

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