By Alex Groves
Dozens of teens and their families descended on the San Juan Capistrano Sports Park on Saturday, Aug. 4, for an event aimed at raising funds and awareness for a city-approved skate park.
Skate Jam, the San Juan Capistrano Skate Park Coalition’s first official event, had vendors, ramps for kids to skate on and a live band.
Kids of varying ages could be seen doing tricks and jumps on the ramps on both scooters and skateboards as their parents watched cautiously. Others rode down the parking lot or perused the various vendor booths that had been set up.
Peter Carey, president of the coalition, said the event was about raising awareness for the coalition’s efforts and the various ways that people can donate, including putting change in change jars to purchasing bricks that will be laid down when the park is constructed.
“We’ve got a lot of people showing interest and we’ve got a lot of people saying they want to get involved, they want to help,” Carey said. “The reality is, that everything’s in place. The city has approved the site, the drawings are in there…the thing we need is money.”
The San Juan Capistrano City Council approved conceptual design for a sports park to be completed by Spohn Ranch, Inc., of Los Angeles for the northwest end of the San Juan Capistrano Sports Park. The design includes local skateboard history and an area for beginner skateboarders.
But the city currently is still looking for a funding source for the $2 million necessary to complete the project, which has spurred Carey and his cohorts to fundraise.
The have set up the coalition as a nonprofit, held regular board meetings and regularly pushed out information about fundraising efforts to the public.
For Carey, it’s personal. Not only do his kids skate, but he was once a skater himself and remembers having difficulty pursuing his hobby.
“We all remember skating as kids,” he said. “We remember getting kicked out of places, getting chased by cops. Now our kids, we’ve got to take them outside of town to go skateboarding.”
Bob Parks, another coalition board member, said getting the skate park going was in large part about ensuring the safety of the kids that do it.
He pointed to recent skateboard fatalities in the area as a part of a problem he feels could be curbed if kids had a designated place to go rather than streets and parking lots.
“This is a problem,” he said. “If you live in this city, you should be backing these kids up. They can’t afford to get hurt anymore.”
Both an incumbent city councilwoman and a city council candidate were at the event to show their support.
City Councilwoman Kerry Ferguson was on hand with large-scale renderings of the project for visitors to view.
She said she has supported the skate park since attending a Youth Advisory Committee board meeting and hearing what parents had to say.
“The parents came up to speak and they said, ‘please build the skate park,’” Ferguson recalled. “’I wanted one when I was a kid and now my kids want one.”
Ferguson said the design should bring the “best of both worlds.”
She said the skate park is shaped in a way that it shouldn’t detract from the park’s existing fields. She also noted that parents who have one child playing in a field and another playing in the skate park should have easy visibility of both.
Cody Martin, 18, who is running for District 3, said he wanted to show support because he believes having a skate park could benefit the youth population in San Juan.
“I will support anything that can get our kids off the streets, get them off drugs … and give them opportunities so they can do something productive,” Martin said. “I think a skate park is the right way to go.”
Carey said he fully believes the park will get built eventually, despite its hefty price tag.
“It’s going to get done,” he said. “You have way too many people behind it now. It’s just a matter of when and how, but we really definitely need some big investors to come in.”
The San Juan Capistrano Skate Park Coalition will be having another board meeting at 6 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 16, at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center, 25925 Camino Del Avion, San Juan Capistrano.