Councilman Steve DeBrum believes it’s time for Manteca to start thinking about a new skate park possibly at a more high-profile location near the highly successful BMX track in Spreckels Park.
DeBrum’s suggestion that can be found among 70 budget-related questions and comments council members submitted to staff in regards to the 2013-14 fiscal year spending plan reflects how attitudes have changed toward skaters.
Back in the late 1990s after then Councilman Wayne Flores convinced his colleagues to approve the idea of building a skate park, it became a political hot potato.
Every location staff or a committee came up with was met with huge opposition from neighbors. A site in front of the golf course and across from the tennis courts was batted down because it was determined it would somehow be disrespectful to funerals taking place across Union Road. A location next to the parks and recreation office on Magnolia Street was rejected due to plans to expand the Civic Center complex.
A suggestion to build it at Woodward Park was rejected on the basis that the park was years away from being developed although there was vocal position from residents who had just moved into the neighborhood.
The council finally settled on the current location away from streets and homes tucked on a stretch of the Tidewater Bikeway behind the PG&E substation next to the railroad tracks between Center and Elm streets and Walnut Place Park.
Instead of spending upwards of $400,000 on a complete skate park facility, the council opted to go with a smaller $150,000 version built with bonus bucks in exchange for sewer allocation certainty with the inference they’d expand it at a later date.
The problems started immediately. Since no one could see it from any street — not even police on patrol — it became a place for bullies and thugs to hang out to intimate skaters and others. The situation forced the city to install the first surveillance camera linked directly to the dispatch center at the police station to monitor the facility.
Then large number of kids were crossing the railroad tracks to access the skate park and to ride their BMX bikes on piles of nearby dirt.
After concerns for safety grew, the city eventually put in a wrought iron fence.
It was a fence, by the way, that was supposed to go in years prior when the city set aside $400,000 in redevelopment agency funds to finish the skate park. It was suppose to include restrooms, extensive landscape and benches. Instead, the city opted not to spend additional funds except when they had to put the fence in place for safety reasons. The RDA funding set aside for skate park improvements was officially dropped in the 2005 budget.
DeBrum’s suggestion of Spreckels Park for a possible new skate park location is based on the premise the two recreation endeavors complement each other, the site is highly viable with parking available, and the city has a large expanse of land that could be utilized.
Future plans also call for restrooms at the BMX track.
Staff, in their reply to DeBrum, noted work is expected to get underway on a Parks and Recreation Master Plan for Manteca over the next 12 months They indicated the need for an updated skate park or a new facility could be addressed through the public input process associated with development of the master plan.