Easy Reader Staff

Peninsula warms to skatepark idea

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Peninsula skateboarder

James Maxwell, 9, of Palos Verdes Estates prepares to shred on a local ramp. Photo by Ellen November

Ellen November is a mother of two grown children, neither of whom skateboarded. Yet for the past two years she’s been just about the biggest “skateboard mom” on the hill as she leads the effort to build a skateboard park in Palos Verdes.

“I don’t know exactly why I’m passionate about it, but I am,” she said. “As a kid you don’t have the skills necessary to speak up and get things done. Everybody wants to make a difference, but not everybody is able to.”

November hadn’t paid much attention to the sport until one day a few years back when she saw a group of middle school kids skateboarding at a nearby mall.

“When I came back, all the kids were gone and a sheriff’s car was at the curb,” she said. “Later on I found out that it’s considered loitering if five or more kids are standing on the street. Where do 50 junior high boys go in a heartbeat? At that moment I thought, ‘Is this the best we can do?’”

So November formed a non-profit, Skatepark PV, and created a web site. The group holds skateboarding events to support building a park. And last year, the group produced a public service announcement that recently won “best short” at the Torrance Community Television Awards.

The idea to build a skateboard park on the Peninsula has won the approval of law enforcement officials, educators and at least for now the Rancho Palos Verdes city council, which authorized a study by a landscape architect to evaluate locations and a suitable design.

Properties likely under consideration are either owned by the city of RPV, Rolling Hills Estates or the Palos Verdes Unified School District. The top three choices so far appear to be Fred Hesse and Ladera Linda community parks in RPV or Ernie Howlett Park in Rolling Hills Estates.

November believes she can raise the $400,000 from local sponsors to build the concrete ramps and rails needed for a 10,000 square-foot park. All the group needs is to be gifted land.

Jerry Duhovic, RPV city council member, supports the idea. But he said the council is trying to be cautious.

“There are enough skateboarders on the hill that a centralized location where kids can skate in a safe supervised environment is a goal I think that has some merit,” Duhovic said.

The only pushback has come from residents concerned the proposed park might draw increased traffic and activity, Duhovic said.

Estimates put the number of skateboarders on the Peninsula at around 3,000 young people, about the same amount of soccer players in AYSO. Yet there is one soccer field for every 245 players, November points out. In the Lunada Bay Little League, there is roughly one field for every 45 players, she said.

“We live in one of the most exclusive areas of the country and yet we don’t provide a skate park for our kids,” said November, who views the Peninsula as generally unfriendly to skateboarding.

Palos Verdes Estates, for example, has a law against skateboarding on city streets or on sidewalks within business districts subject to an $80 fine.

“Every time someone’s trying to recreate and have fun somebody comes out with a law to give you a ticket,” November said.

Skateboarding, which suffered from a negative image early in the sport’s history, has gained widespread acceptance. New parks have recently opened in Venice, Long Beach, Wilmington and Gardena. Hermosa Beach has had a skatepark since 1999.

Issey Yumiba, a 23-year-old local skater who appears frequently in videos and magazines, said skating has kept him out of trouble.

“It’s also taught me a lot of things outside of the sport,” Yumida said. “It’s taught me how to be confident and how to set a goal and achieve it.”

Yumida said a skate park in Palos Verdes would prevent kids from skateboarding in schools or business districts because they would have a place to go.

“To me there are only positive things coming out of it,” he said. “It creates a safe environment for the kids to go.”

A skateboarding event at Vanguard skate shop in Torrance on Sunday proved how much interest a set of ramps and rails can draw for a group of mostly young boys. The shop turned its parking lot into a mini skatepark and invited local kids to compete. Proceeds from the various sponsors went to Skatepark PV.

Kim Robinson, Vanguard co-owner, said a skatepark in PV would be the perfect place for a skate camp organized by the shop.

“I know the parents have told me they want it,” she said. “Kids need a safe place to skate and play in the community.”

Many of the parks built in the 1980s when skateboarding first came on the scene were dismantled because of liability concerns. Now a California Health and Safety code exempts cities with skateboard parks from liability, which accounts for the crop of new parks sprouting up without legal worry.

But it hasn’t been easy. Efforts to win community support for recently built skateboard parks in Venice and Long Beach took years. The RPV city council could be looking at the results of the preliminary assessment by the fall.

If the council approves the project, November plans to set about raising money, which in all likelihood would make constructing the park at least another two years away.

“Everyone thinks it’s a great idea,” November said. “The only negative are people who don’t want it in their backyard. I haven’t met anyone who told me it was a bad idea.”

Skatepark PV is holding an event Saturday May 5 for skaters of all ages at Ernie Howlett Park in Rolling Hills Estates. For more information visit www.skateparkpv.org.

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