Kai Burburn rocks back and forth nervously on the lip of the bowl at the new Lathrop skate park.
It’s not that he’s afraid of dropping down onto what most people would consider a steep – almost vertical – concrete wall and into a pool made of a surface that’s as unforgiving as it gets.
It’s that he’s excited and he can’t figure out what he’s going to do when it makes it to the bottom – whether he’s going to go straight up the other side, cut out into another open portion of the park or slide back in to ground back around the bowl near where he dropped in at.
These are the decisions that skaters have to make when they’re venturing into fresh ground and new territory. These are the decisions that hundreds have had to make ever since Lathrop opened its new sprawling belowground concrete park last summer.
“Man, you look around at all of these runs and all of these lines and it’s like Christmas,” Burburn said. “You just don’t see anything like this around here. You would almost expect to have to pay for a park like this.”
While skate parks have become commonplace in communities across the country, Lathrop went the extra mile when planning it’s a combination teen center and library facility across the street from Lathrop High School. The complex also includes an amphitheater, a parkour course and basketball courts in addition to the skate park. A community garden will be added soon.
During the planning phases the city actually solicited the input of skaters by inviting them to public planning meetings and providing modeling clay for them to shape the format of what they’d like to see.
The dilapidated state of the skate park on 7th Street – rotting pieces of treated plywood and exposed nails serving as routine hazards for those that frequented it and giving city crews fits in order to keep it operational – was shuttered when the new park opened.
But soon Lathrop will be the only city of its size anywhere in the valley that has two skate parks.
With the blessing of the Lathrop City Council the 7th Street skate park was torn down and will soon be outfitted with a series of pre-fabricated bolt-down obstacles that can be configured in any one of a number of ways. The heavy-duty pieces are relatively inexpensive and are easy to replace and are expected to last more than a decade.
“We have to ride all the way out here and we aren’t complaining, but it’ll be cool to have a park near our houses again,” skater Robert Mendoza said. “There are a lot of guys that can’t come out here because their parents won’t let them ride under the freeway and we’ll be able to skate with them again.”