Skating on to something new
China banks. Pier seven’s. Fly outs. Spine transfers.
At times it may have seemed like people were talking a whole different language when borough leaders and local youth came together last Thursday evening to discuss plans for the proposed new skate park.
Lucky for borough leaders, the main designer for the new park, Jason Baldessari from Spohn Ranch Skateparks of Los Angeles, CA, was in the house to help decode the messages. Each of those terms represent popular features which could be included in the final park layout.
Borough officials held the meeting as a next step in planning the new park, which is to be located adjacent to the Ephrata Public Library. Construction could begin as soon as this summer with a ribbon-cutting ceremony perhaps by the end of August.
Code officer Nancy Harris led the meeting which was also attended by Mayor Ralph Mowen and council members Tim Barr, Anthony Kilkuskie, Dale Hertzog, Bob Good and Mel Weiler. Borough Manager Bob Thompson, Rec Center Executive Director Jim Summers and Ephrata Public Library Director Penny Talbert, along with over 20 skateboard enthusiasts and a few parents. Several officers from the Ephrata Police Department were also on hand.
“Ephrata Borough council has appropriated the funds for this new park,” Harris explained to the group. “Monies are there. We are going to get that project done. I know there are rumors out there that this won’t get done but this is going to happen!”
Other than the location of the park, about the only thing that seems to be settled right now is that there are no plans to fence in the new facility. Beyond that, the purpose of the meeting was to get as much information on what would be most meaningful to the youth regarding features.
To those ends, Baldessari even had a several page, pre-printed survey for each person to fill out.
The borough hopes to create the ideal place for local youth to skateboard, perhaps even ride BMX bikes, in-line skate or even ride scooter. Beyond that, Baldessari said many of the parks Spohn Ranch has designed are aesthetically pleasing and easily adaptable to other uses, from outdoor market and movie events to pedestrian areas.
Spohn Ranch is a company which was developed solely for the purpose of developing international design built skate parks. The company grew up with the industry, having been founded by skateboarding enthusiast and professional Aaron Spohn.
Baldessari himself is a 31-year-old skating professional. According to him, if there is a way to hurt himself surfing, skating or snowboarding, he has done it. And while building a safe skate park is important, some of the nicks and scrapes that come with the sport are more “badge of courage” than sign of design failure.
“Consider yourself incredibly, incredibly fortunate to have had not just one skate park but building this second park,” Baldessari told the youth. “This is huge for the city to set aside the funds for such a project. I just can’t tell you how huge this is.”
Baldessari noted the strength of his company in creating just the right fit for the community. He explained that while Spohn Ranch can be contracted to do design or to just do construction, generally the company is contracted to do both.
“We have done well over 1,000 concrete-formed skate parks internationally,” said Baldessari. “We are most known for skate plazas and pioneering state of the art. We are a design-build firm. We also have a sister company which runs skate parks. We know that skate parks must be in the right location and with the right sight lines.”
During his presentation, he showed picture of numerous Spohn Ranch projects globally, along with a wide variety of features which captivated the young audience.
Thompson asked how a park can be designed to keep it from getting boring. Baldessari said the answer was part in building a park that is expandable and one which skaters of different skating ability can grow with, even adapt to different uses over time.
One mother was concerned about the mix of age groups which could congregate at the park. Baldessari said that often the skate community works to self-manage their parks &tstr; from skaters of different ages knowing when their age group is going to be there in force to encourage good behavior aimed at keeping the park clean and well-maintained.
“It blows my mind how talented younger kids are today,” added Baldessari. “The talent level is nuts. You can have professionals at age 15, so we take all the traffic patterns into account.”
Dale Callihan is a young skater who was present for the meeting, asking lots of questions along the way. Throughout the evening, he was able to often spearhead questions and make suggestions to the designer based on his experience.
“I’m very pleased to have 20 some youth here to propose some of their ideas,” commented Mayor Mowen. “They presented some very thoughtful ideas on the park and I look forward to working with them over the next several months until it is opened.”
Mowen added that this will be a public park which will be open to whoever.
Parent Connie Kline was supportive of the new park.
“I’m glad it’s coming,” said Kline. “The kids need a place to express their art and not get into trouble.”
But Kline also was also concerned about a possible drug influence.
“There are a lot of drugs in the area,” said Kline. “Is there any way there could be a new youth outreach officer that the kids would feel comfortable going to for the new park?”
Mowen and Sgt. Matt Kline pointed out that the borough and Ephrata Area School District already have a School Resource Officer in place that has done a great job building rapport with local students. In addition, an anonymous tip communication process has been put in place where students can communicate directly and anonymously with the officer with any concern, ranging from drugs to bullying to suicide concerns.
Police do plan to monitor the park on a regular basis, but admit that it would be difficult to monitor any location 24 /7.
“We also have youth service people on staff at the library,” added Talbert. “That’s always open for them to come in and talk to us.”
Armed with the feedback gathered, the next step for the project is for Bardessari to create some conceptual plans for further review by the youth and borough officials. Once a design has been narrowed down, planning and prep work can begin.
For additional information on Ephrata Borough, visit ephrataboro.org. Spohn Ranch also has a website at spohnranch.com.
Gary P. Klinger is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at www.twitter.com/gpklinger.