By Shawn Raymundo
Whenever you see a group of skateboarders practicing kickflips in parking lots, it’s a safe bet that they’ll eventually be chased out by security or the police.
But on a breezy May afternoon in San Juan Capistrano, the parking lot of the city’s community center was a haven for skateboarders who got to use quarter pipes and ramps to work on their tricks without the worry of local law enforcement intervening.
That’s because of the SJC Skatepark Coalition, a nonprofit organization that’s working to raise money toward the construction of a skate park in San Juan.
The coalition hosted its Spring 2019 Skate Jam on Saturday, May 18, attracting skaters from all over South County to the Community Center, where a portion of its parking lot was turned into a makeshift skate park.
The event—the third of its kind the group has held in the past year—was meant to show the community that there’s a significant need to get a skate park built in the city. Touching on his own childhood, Skatepark Coalition President Peter Carey recalled not having a place to skate while growing up.
“Even back when I was a kid, when I used to skate, we couldn’t really skateboard in residential or business districts; there’s not a place to skate,” Carey said.
“Like every sport, you’ve got soccer fields to go play soccer, baseball fields to go play baseball. These kids need a place to skate, that’s what it’s really all about,” he said. “They’ll just go skate anywhere and get kicked out. Businesses don’t want to take that liability; you don’t want kids skating in front of your house, or where there’s traffic.”
Dozens of skateboarders throughout South County participate in the Spring 2019 Skate Jam at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center on Saturday, May 18. Photos: Shawn Raymundo
Steve Raubolt, a Ladera Ranch resident and parent, echoed Carey’s sentiments, noting that without a designated park to skate in, kids are likely to inadvertently damage property while practicing tricks.
“If they’re not here, what are they doing? They’re probably skating in neighborhoods, skating in shopping centers, damaging property . . . you know, not on purpose, but when they’re grinding and jumping and going over rails and things like that, it damages property,” he said.
Raubolt said his 14-year-old son, Steven, wanted to come to the Skate Jam to help support the Coalition’s cause.
“That’s all he does, is hang out at skate parks after school and on the weekends,” Raubolt, 40, said. “And so we know San Juan Capistrano doesn’t have its own skate park, so he’s down here to support it.”
Pointing to the issue of safety, Raubolt further explained that a skate park could provide a safer alternative for kids.
“What ends up happening is when the kids are skateboarding out on the streets, they don’t wear helmets and they don’t have any instruction, so they’re just out being careless,” Raubolt said, adding that in a controlled environment “you can require kids under 18 to wear pads, you can require them to wear helmets, you can have them sign waivers, you can educate them on how to be safe; otherwise, they’re just roaming around.”
The San Juan Capistrano City Council approved the conceptual design of the proposed skate park in March 2017. Standing in the way of its construction: securing funding.
The park, which was designed by Spohn Ranch, Inc., a Los Angeles-based skate park developer, is estimated to cost close to $2 million.
“The design incorporates local skateboard history, an area for beginner skateboarders, and will make San Juan Capistrano home to a world-class action sports facility,” according to the city.
At the beginning of the year, Carey emphasized the goal of 2019 is to raise $1 million toward the skate park.
However, the coalition’s major fundraising efforts haven’t begun yet, according to Tina Auclair, the coalition’s treasurer. She explained that since the coalition received its nonprofit status this past December, the group’s attention has been toward garnering support for the park.
“We have nearly 1,000 signatures so far, and this last skate jam helped show the need for a skate park in SJC, with close to 100 skaters and even more spectators,” Auclair said in an email.
Before working on a big push to get donors, the group has also been putting together a Memorandum of Understanding with the city. The MOU is meant to establish a formal relationship between the city and the coalition.
“We have drafted an MOU proposal for the city that includes their help with e-blasts, booth space at events, etc.,” she wrote. “We also look forward to their continued support in determining the best way we can get this job done.”
To attract corporate sponsors, the coalition is also seeking approval from the city to offer potential donors naming rights on certain parts of the park, Auclair said.
“Our plans for the near future include continuing to raise awareness and gather support within the community until we can get together with the city to obtain approval on things like naming rights for bricks, bowls and overall park naming rights,” she wrote in the email. “Once that happens, we will be focused on the next level of corporate fundraising.”
Carey said the coalition is dedicated to reaching its $1 million goal—even if it takes a bit longer to get there.
“If we have to raise a million (dollars), it’s going to take us a little longer than we want, but I think if we raise a large chunk of money and we show the awareness and need for the park, that that will get some things done for us,” Carey said.
“We want to see someone break ground and start building it; let’s get it done,” he said. “If it ends up being a $2 million park, fantastic. If it ends up being something smaller, fantastic. Ultimately, we can hope for the best, but just got to keep going. We’re not trying to get caught up on how much money we have; we just want to get it done.”
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow The Dispatch @CapoDispatch.