Solana Beach looks to get skate park back on track
Having skidded into a stall that has seen costs mushroom and groundbreaking pushed back indefinitely, Solana Beach’s decade-long quest to give a proper venue to the city’s thriving skateboarding scene is poised to get its momentum going again.
City officials and skaters have for years been eyeing the northwest corner of La Colonia Park — already one of Solana Beach’s primo skate spots, with its long rows of concrete steps — as home for a skate park.
After the city allocated $300,000 last fall, community organizers embarked on a campaign to privately raise the rest of the expected $450,000 in hopes of breaking ground this summer. That price tag has since swelled to $820,000, city officials can’t be sure they’ll be able to break ground this year and fundraising has lagged amid the uncertainty.
But the downturn of events could start to reverse course in the weeks ahead if the project wins a county grant that would close the funding gap, and if the unveiling of the skate park’s design sparks renewed excitement. Once a final design is approved and the city charts a more certain course toward groundbreaking, the funds should start pouring in, said Linda Swindell, a member of the city’s recreation committee who has helped spearhead the skate park effort.
“There’s a lot of people who want to donate,” she said. “Everything we’ve done so far has been more like mini-donating and raising awareness. But the interest is there. People are willing and ready once given direction. We’ve had many business owners come forward saying they want to help out. But we need direction from the city.”
The fact that Solana Beach skaters have to go to Carmel Valley or Encinitas if they want to enjoy a proper skate park is a stinging frustration for a community that has seen some of the sport’s biggest names skate its streets and sidewalks, including Tony Hawk, Wes Kremer and hometown wunderkind Tom Scharr, who shocked the skating world at the 2014 X Games as a mere 8th grader at Earl Warren Middle School.
“We have so many skaters here but all the kids grow up going off to other communities, with their moms taking them all over the place,” Swindell said.
That had long been the state of affairs when city officials in 2007 started to put together plans for a $5.4 million overhaul of La Colonia Park, of which the skate park would be part. The plan had been to pay for it all through a redevelopment program fed by revenues from work along Highway 101. But Gov. Jerry Brown eliminated that program in 2011, forcing city officials to take a piecemeal approach to La Colonia Park’s transformation. First came the Veterans Honor Courtyard, which opened on Memorial Day 2016 thanks in large part to a wildly successful fundraising campaign. This May, the La Colonia Community Center unveiled extensive renovations that added a computer lab in which Mira Costa College offers adult-learning classes geared toward the neighborhood’s predominantly Latino demographic — again made possible through private partnerships and donations.
A surplus in last year’s city budget got the wheels rolling on the skate park effort. The city council allocated $300,000 in October, and skaters and their families responded with a wide-ranging grassroots campaign to raise the rest of the expected costs.
A kickoff event that month rustled up $2,200. The Tony Hawk Foundation — whose namesake has family ties to Solana Beach — donated $5,000. The Surfing Madonna Beach Run donated $20,000. A pancake breakfast fundraiser preceded a design workshop at the end of April. Organizers set up a fund through the Coastal Communities Foundation. Local skater Jason Estudillo launched a GoFundMe page. The Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society has promised $2,000. The Solana Beach Sunset 5K race donated $1,000. Belly Up and Culture Brewery threw fundraising events during the winter. Rebecca Norman Boutique hosted a shopping and silent auction event this summer.
“We’ve had an overwhelming response from the community at these events, from all ages,” Swindell said. “This is a surf-skate community and we have a lot of support for this, from the little tiniest kids to teenagers to older men, ex-skaters who tell me how excited they are to watch their grandkids skate.”
Drawing up that vision has fallen to Site Design Group, the Carlsbad-based firm that designed the Encinitas and Carmel Valley skate parks, among dozens of others around the world. After months of tinkering and community input, the skate park’s final design proposal is expected by the end of this month, Swindell said, and state-mandated environmental review should be completed in six weeks. To see the sketches being worked on, go to www.sitedesigngroup.com/la-colonia.
But with so many elements weighing in on the skate park’s amenities, the price tag crept up to $820,000, which includes $60,000 for a basketball court to be built at a later date.
All told, the project has $550,000 at the ready.
To close the gap, the city decided this week to pursue a $270,000 grant from the county’s Neighborhood Reinvestment Program. The County Board of Supervisors chooses the projects that will dip into the $10 million pool, which is evenly divided among the county’s five districts. Solana Beach has won NRP grants twice before: for the Veterans Honor Courtyard, and for improvements on Highland Drive along to San Dieguito Park.
City officials do not yet know when they’ll hear about the grant. Assistant City Manager Dan King is aiming to update the city council at its Sept. 27 meeting.
“We hope to break ground by the end of the year, but it’s all funding-dependent,” he said.
To keep up with the skate park campaign, follow @SolanaBeachSkatepark on Facebook and Instagram. Donations can be made to https://bit.ly/2im1kj4
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