WILLITS SKATE PARK ASSOCIATION

Was formed for the purpose of generating funds to build an outdoor concrete skate park in Willits, California. The facility is publicly owned and free to use by skateboarders, roller skaters, and roller blades (in-line skating).

What started as an idea in 1999, came to full fruition on October 23, 2004 when the park first opened.

At first glance, the goal of the Willits Skate Park Association may almost seem mundane: to construct the first skate park in Mendocino County. But the true story of this odyssey goes beyond simply making sure skateboarders in the county have a curvy place to play. Initially the goal was to build a 10,000 square foot skatepark, at an estimated cost of $200,000, taking approximately two years to complete.

However, with public input the vision grew and decisions were made to construct a “destination park” increasing the size to 18,500 square feet and to incorporate pathways, picnic areas, and landscaping so that more than just skaters could enjoy the park.

This new vision had a price tag that increased to $800,000! Daunting to say the least, especially in a small rural, low-income community. The benefits derived from the process of getting a skatepark built was, potentially, more valuable than the product itself. The efforts of the Willits Skate Park Association and the skate park project have taught local youths a lifelong lesson in the power of perseverance.

WSPA was successful in getting support for the skate park project from the Brooktrails Board of Directors, the Sherwood Valley Tribal Council, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, and our state representatives, Sen.

Wesley Chesbro and Assemblymember Virginia Strom-Martin. Letters of support for a Willits Skate Park were also received from many local citizens, businesses, and public officials, including Willits Unified School District administrators, Superior Court Judge Cindee Mayfield, Willits Police Chief Ron Caudillo, and the Director of the county Department of Public Health, Marvin Trotter.

The need for a safe, legal facility in Willits for skateboarders, roller skaters and in-line skaters was indicated by the enormous public support the WSPA campaign generated in Willits and throughout the county.

A WSPA survey completed by 1,126 students in the Willits public schools in February 2001 found interest in a skate park was high. 712 skaters said they would use a skate park in Willits regularly; many non-skaters said they thought it was a good idea for the town (many adding that it would “help keep kids out of trouble”), and 54 non-skating students said they’d like to go watch.

Although skateboarding has received much mainstream credibility in recent years, thousands of communities have yet to provide skaters with a place to legally practice their sport of choice. The common skate park-building story in most communities is something like this: a skater gets in trouble (maybe a ticket, maybe a call home from the principal) and complains to his parents that he has no place to skate.

His parents persuade him to write a letter to City Hall, or to attend a city-council meeting. The skater gets some friends together, puts on his cleanest shirt, sits through a boring meeting, and then makes a nervous but respectful plea for a skatepark. City officials, impressed by the courteous request, agree that it’s a good idea and commit to including a skatepark in the next parks-and-recreation budget and designate a central location for the project.

Not in Willits! The twist here is that the Willits Skate Park Association was founded and spearheaded by Adults who were tired of seeing skaters forced to skate unsafely, and illegally.

Eventually, the City of Willits was a major supporter of the skate park and the community attitudes changed and the kids realized that the adults really wanted to help them, and the adults realized that the kids were willing to work hard for this thing they love.

Most important, the kids learned that they actually could accomplish something by working with the system rather than beating their heads against it, or sitting at home complaining about it. They learned how to communicate in a way that encourages adults to listen.

The fundraisers and activities spearheaded by Willits Skate Park Association created a catalyst for binding teenagers, parents, police, politicians, business leaders and civic groups, who got together and pushed for a common cause. That effort alone makes the world a slightly better place. One of the questions raised on a grant application was How will you define success of your project?

The WSPA response was – The Willits Skate Park project will be a success if, on any after-school afternoon or summer day, the park is filled with skateboarders, roller skaters and in-line skaters practicing their sport safely, legally and cooperatively.

Now that the park is built, I invite you to come by the park on that bright sunny day after school or the weekend and see the skaters enjoying this park. What a sight!! Just because the skating portion of the park is built does not mean the WSP has completed its commitment.

The picnic and pathways portion is yet to be built, but with the ongoing efforts of the WSPA Board of Directors, these areas will become reality this summer. WSPA hopes to encourage adult presence by providing inviting, accessible areas – with native plant landscaping and picnic tables – for families and other spectators. WSPA expects skaters and their families from around the county and beyond to travel to the Willits Skate Park.

ADULT VOLUNTEER SERVICE GROUP

Willits Skate Park Association Board of Directors:

Nikki Burgess
Nancy Dahlen
Karla Downing
Gerri Gonzales
David Madrigal
Holly Madrigal
Ron Orenstein
Jennifer Poole

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *