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$400K for vandalized skate park?

Manteca may add restrooms, landscaping

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$400K for vandalized skate park?

A skateboarded catches air at the Manteca Skate Park.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED May 15, 2012 2:06 a.m.

Shae Adolfson has to bring his own drinks to the Manteca Skate Park.

It’s not that there isn’t a water fountain. It’s just that the only one working is more than a quarter-mile away near where the Tidewater Bikeway intersects with Center Street. Vandals keep hitting and thrashing the concrete water fountain at the park inaccessible by vehicles along the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.

 And now that summer is fast approaching for the Manteca High School senior and avid skateboarder, he’ll be back to his old tricks again – either grabbing shade under a dusty grove planted along the bikeway or on a friend’s porch when the mercury tops 100 degrees.

With a gallon of water between his legs to stave of dehydration and a towel to wipe the sweat, the heat isn’t enough to keep Adolfson from his favorite pastime but it is enough to keep him questioning whether a short voyage to Ripon or Lathrop to access skate parks in those two communities would be more productive.

“If I could ask for anything, I’d ask for a whole new park,” Adolfson said. “We hear that Lathrop is going to be opening a new skate park because they got some money, but we don’t want to have to go all the way out there just to skate.

“This is our park and they just should have put a little more time in designing it.”

The park - built in the late 1990s with the bonus bucks collected from new homes for sewer allocation certainty - cost $150,000. It was put where it was because the council ran into hard-fast opposition from neighbors at other locations including in the Manteca Golf Park directly across from the funeral home on Union Road.

The then City Council - not eager to renege on a promise to build a skate park and not eager to offend adults who weren’t warm and fuzzy about the idea especially if it went near where they lived or had a business - opted for the most isolated spot they could find on the Tidewater Bikeway.

As a result, from the first day it opened there have been off-and-on issues with vandalism and sometimes belligerent behavior

There was a point a decade ago that the idea of building a second skate park at Woodward Park was floated.

But don’t depend on that happening any time soon.

“There won’t be the money for that for a long, long time,” noted Manteca Councilman John Harris.

The council last week approved a capital improvement plan that could place a restroom and landscaping at the skate park at a cost of $400,000 in the 2014-15 fiscal year. The closest public restroom is now at Library Park. The funds likely would come from park fees collected on new home construction.

Harris, who said he was unaware of the water fountain vandalism, said that the city should what it could to improve on what is already in place.

“It is better than nothing,” Harris said of the skate park.

While the installation of a camera monitored at the police dispatch center has driven away some the vandals, the concrete and steel construction of the skate park still requires upkeep. The coping in the two vert sections with the transfer is worn down and the uneven concrete box in the middle makes it difficult for any semblance of flow.

A wrought-iron fence along the Union Pacific railroad tracks added some aesthetic value to the park and kept kids from crossing the tracks, but the lack of benches leaves a lot to be desired. Adolfson said that “‘Tweekers’ used to hang out there and were constantly getting run off by cops”.

Despite the fact that the park was designed to give local skaters a place to go instead of the storefronts, guiderails and stair sets throughout the community that had become overrun and in a sense, dangerous, many are returning to their street skating roots for a change of pace.

It’s hard, they say, not to feel like outcasts in their own community.

“Whether the cops are going to show up depends on where it is that you’re going to (skateboard),” he said. “There are some run down parts of town that you can get away with, but new staircases and places like that you’ll get run out of pretty quick.”

And street skating seems to be the order of the day.

When former Ripon Councilman Curt Pernice started a drive to construct a massive skate park behind city hall – signing up one of the country’s top park builders to conceptualize the steep vert walls and the coveted lines – the facility quickly became a draw for skaters throughout Northern California.

Talk about adding a street course on the parcel of land above the Ripon park stalled and was ultimately squashed with the State of California did away with redevelopment funding. The undertaking was on the short list of projects set to be completed by the specialized unit.

It’s the place that Ryan Dotson grew up skateboarding before he recently moved to Manteca.

And while he enjoys spending time with his friends, finding new ways to hate their digs has almost become a sport.

“There are parts that are off balanced and that really messes up the lines,” Dotson said. “The only people who really care about this place are the skaters. I’m starting to think that it’s always been that way.”

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