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Skate park still wows enthusiasts from region
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Salidas Cameron Balmain grinds across a rail at the Curt Pernice Skate Park in Ripon. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

RIPON – When it first opened, the Curt Pernice Skate Park drew skateboarders from throughout Northern California who were amazed that a tiny Central Valley town would put so much into a place for a group that is often overlooked.

But have Ripon skateboarders grown tired of its steep and sloping concrete walls?

On any given summer day, the park – tucked into a corner behind Ripon City Hall – is rocking with skateboarders of virtually all skill levels that are pushing themselves to perfect their latest trick or maneuver for all of their friends to see.

The only catch is most of them still come from neighboring cities like Escalon and Salida – communities that don’t have skate parks of their own – and spend large portions of their day carving up the smooth concrete lines that renowned skate park creator Tim Payne drew up for the city.

“I live between here and Modesto, and this park is way better than Modesto,” said Salida’s DJ Hill. “It’s a good all-around park. Modesto doesn’t have any coping like they do here, and the lines here really set-up for a good flow.

“I’m probably out here every other day during the summer. It’s a cool place to come skate with your friends.”

When Pernice – who made a push for the park during his first go-around on the Ripon City Council after leading a successful “skateboard ministry” for several years in town – started talking about the possibility of expanding the park to completion, the idea gained a foothold among local youth and elected officials alike.

Sinking home prices and development that came to a screeching halt pretty much froze that concept – which would have added a street-specific run atop the vert-heavy existing park complete with rails, stairs and other additions.

Not having that portion of the park doesn’t bother Modesto’s Houston Hansen though. The fluid concrete transitions are enough to keep him occupied throughout the summer.

“I really don’t like the angles at the park in Modesto. Things here are a whole lot smoother,” he said. “We’ll come down here and skate from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. The people here are all pretty cool and they have their little groups.

“There are just a lot of sections here that allow for a lot of varieties, and that’s not something that you see a whole lot in skate parks. This is definitely worth going out of your way to come to.”

Escalon’s Jimmy Tennier echoed Hansen’s sentiment.

“There are lots of other places that we can go, but this is such a nice park and all of the people here are cool,” he said. “You’d expect to find this somewhere that you have to pay to get into. Not at a public park where anybody can come.

“That just makes it even better.”