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Generations Center off to gnarly start; skaters shape park

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POSTED July 9, 2013 1:30 a.m.

LATHROP – Nearly a decade after Manteca built its first skate park city, officials are finally starting to talk openly about adding something that actually caters to those that use it.

An entirely new park.

Last week, Manteca Councilman Steve DeBrum, in the wake of the city preparing its first-ever parks master plan, raised the issue of possibly constructing a new skate park somewhere near or possibly on city-owned land near the Spreckels Park BMX track. The City Council – some current members of which made the decision to place the skate park in its current, hidden location – has long been the scapegoat for the ills at the site, which initially included drug use, bullying and a lack of amenities.

Lathrop doesn’t plan on having the same problem.

With local skateboarders themselves stepping up to help design the features that will be included in the new maze of concrete and metal coping – the city’s first sub-level skate park, opting for composite wood when it built the park that still stands on Seventh Street – local elected officials are giddy about the concept, and can’t wait until it opens next summer just a block away from Lathrop High School.

“It’s a big deal for us because we kind of envisioned this becoming a big, beautiful, regional skate park that would draw people from outside of community who can come appreciate Lathrop for what it provides its residents,” Councilman Omar Ornelas said. “But we also want it to be a representation of our skating community, and by getting out local skaters involved, that’s what it will be.”

At a community meeting of the Youth Advisory Commission last year, the designer hired to draft the plans for the skate park literally put the project in the hands of the skaters who will use it – giving them clay blocks and telling them to mold what it is that they want to see included.

Most of what came out of that session, Ornelas says, he worked into the plans. Conceptually it has already passed muster with those who plan on using it, and the councilman – who served on the YAC before the City Council – couldn’t say enough about the process and how important it was to get the youth involved.

Not long after Manteca opened its park, tucked away off of the Tidewater Bikeway near Center Street, the City of Ripon used a tactic similar to the one that Lathrop is using to design a park that still draws skateboarders from throughout Northern California.

At the time that Ripon’s park opened, Thrasher Magazine – considered the “Bible” of skateboarding – gave it the highest mark possible and raved about the vert-style approach to a public concrete park and the intricate, technical lines that even professional skateboarders enjoy attacking.

Earning those kinds of credentials, Ornelas said, is something that he hopes Lathrop is able to do as well. While its initial, above-ground park on Seventh Street served the community well for years, getting the opportunity to construct something like this – and add the nation’s first public parkour park to boot – is something that can’t be taken lightly.

“This entire project – the Generations Center – is a community project. And I can’t thank the skaters enough for what they did – they literally designed this park for us,” he said. “It’s only fitting that we expand upon what we have and give our residents something that they can enjoy for years to come. I think that’s exactly what we’re going to get with this.”

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