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Better skate park in works for Lathrop
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LATHROP – The existing Lathrop skate park is flawed.

While it’s a staple for professionals at private parks, the treated wood materials that comprise the ramps inside of the park pose problems when not adequately maintained. It is something that can disrupt the sessions of those skating and even pose safety issues.

And then there’s the whole vandalism problem which shut down the park for months after a crew destroyed Lathrop’s skating haven. The destruction couldn’t have come a worse time – right when the housing bubble at burst and deficits were extending into the tens of millions of dollars. The money to fix it wasn’t it in the budget.

Maintenance is costly and keeping up with it can be a hassle for city crews already hamstrung by budget cuts and an increased workload.

But all of that is going to change when the Lathrop Teen Center and Library opens in early 2014.

With both a skating and a parkour park in the works, both of which will be constructed concurrently with the building, youth preferring more extreme hobbies will have a place to turn – a place that they themselves had input in creating.

“I think that’s the best park. I think that’s what really gives the community ownership – the buy in,” said Lathrop Councilman and former Youth Advisory Commission member Omar Ornelas. “It’s not just one of those thing where the city did what they wanted and then it’s there. There was a very specific type of idea, and that idea is coming to fruition.”

Last month teens interested in the process had the chance to work with clay models to show architects and engineers tasked with mapping out the plans exactly what it is that they’d like to see – from concrete bowls to rails to pipes. It served, Ornelas said, as more of a brainstorming session for both the teens and those who will be tasked with putting together a finished product, but by giving the youth the chance to inject their input into the process they’ll truly have a place that they had a hand in creating.

Construction on the building, Ornelas said, is expected to being early next summer and should take just over a year to complete.

In the meantime the Youth Advisory Commission is putting the finishing touches on the things that they want to see as part of the construction. It is a $5 million project that will be covered by a grant.

The move to solicit input by skaters could end up having big impacts on the turnout of both the skate and parkour parks – possibly turning them into draws when they finally open to the public.

After Thrasher Magazine – the bible of skateboarding – gave Ripon’s Curt Pernice Skatepark a five-star rating, skaters from the Bay Area and even the foothills make trips to the small community to test their skills on Northern California’s newest public track.

It’s not uncommon to find out-of-towners on a given weekend – people who pop in and pick up lunch at a local eatery or gas up before heading out of town.

And after the existing site was used for at least two competitions – one by a Lathrop resident and skateboard company owner looking to promote the sport and another by a local mother and her friend looking to kick-off a miniature skateboarding league – the new course could be a revenue generating attraction.

Ornelas believes that the old wooden park will be destroyed once the new park is opened.

“It’s exciting to see the input that’s going into this,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming.”