It’s safe to say Derrek Asher — and a lot of other Manteca residents — aren’t too wild about the Family City when it comes to having a safe and functional place for youth and adults to skate.
Asher appeared before the Manteca City Council Tuesday asking elected leaders to work towards building a new skate park.
He recited a long list of issues with the existing skate park built nearly two decades ago on the most inaccessible municipal parcel the council could find at the time. The list inlcudes extensive graffiti, broken glass, discarded paraphernalia, no working water fountains, no restrooms, no shade, and riff-raff that hang out near the facility. And while the water fountain has been history at the skate park for years, the closest ones at Center Street haven’t worked for months if not longer.
Then there is the piece de resistance. The security camera that allows police dispatch to keep an eye on the area is broken.
A spot check Wednesday showed the place was fairly clean thanks to the city parks crew that virtually every week is cleaning out graffiti in the concrete bowls.
Unlike Ripon and Lathrop that have vibrant and high profile skate parks, Manteca’s was tucked away on purpose making it next to impossible for the police or anyone else to keep an eye on it.
A bad site was intentionally chosen because a previous council didn’t embrace it as a legitimate and healthy diversion for youth. They rejected locations in the grassy area in front of the golf course along Union Road, a location along the Tidewater Bike Path on Moffat Boulevard, and incorporating it into Woodward Park when it was being developed.
It goes without saying the city never followed through on its initial talk about expanding the skate park and adding restrooms and trees.
Over the years there has been talk of a second skate park either at Woodward Park or next to the BMX Park on Spreckels Avenue but it has been just that — talk. The city recreation plan the city adopted makes mention of a second skate park and a lot of other things but the city has not adopted a strategic plan to work toward making any of those items including a new skate park a reality.
And as an aside, they’re still waiting at the BMX Park for the budgeted and promised renovations of that facility.
The problem is more pervasive than just the skate park. Take a walk down the Tidewater sometime. Count the water fountains that aren’t working. Check out the entrance signs that look crappy to put it politely. Look at the kiosk along Yosemite Avenue at the Tidewater plaza that is still not completed after 20 years.
Then look what the outmanned city parks maintenance staff is up against.
In trying to prevent an Anaheim style homeless encampment from taking root the crews have been slowly taking out shrubs and replacing them with trees.
The stretch between Alameda and Center where the city plopped down the skate park to wash its hands of its promise to build one is the worst magnet for the homeless and the debris they deposit. City crews have done a Herculean job keeping them from getting a foothold. But doing graffiti abatement, homeless cleanup and retrofitting the area essentially to make it less susceptible to the ills for the changing times is taking manpower from other endeavors.
City leaders 20 years ago used terms such as “jewel” to describe the 3.4-mile long Tidewater Bikeway.
Perhaps the council might want to task the Parks & Recreation Commission to develop a white paper, if you will, on what needs to be done to protect the investment the city has made in the Tidewater Bikeway. Is there a plan to protect the pavement as in resurfacing it sometime? What shape is the bike path and surrounding area in? Are improvements needed in terms of new items or maintenance?
At the same time they might want to ask the Parks & Recreation Commission to conduct community workshops to discuss the future of the skate park and whether the city should replace it.
Just a few thoughts for a city that can make the big deals but seems to struggle to address the little things that can make or break the quality of life in a community.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org