It was a journey that lasted years upon years, but on July 29, skaters, city officials and Southside residents could finally celebrate the official opening of a skate park outside the Genoveva Chavez Community Center with a ribbon cutting. Now, the wheels are really turning.
"We started this project in 2008 with the parks fund, and in 2012 we were able to allocate a bit more money towards the park," says City Councilor Ron Trujillo, who represents Council District 4, in which the park is located. "Everybody knows that I've been a coach in this city since back in my early teens. Kids are important to us. Here, we have another place where kids can come and feel safe. This is good for this community." Trujillo turns to Bette Booth, former chair of the city Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission. "I want to thank you," he tells her, "because through your leadership and the community, you all did a hell of a job."
Booth details the almost 10-year journey towards creating the new skate park. "This all started when Pete Gardini and Ryan Lawless," two local college students, "came to us and said, 'We want to support our sport.'" The pair then worked with city and parks officials while also rallying support from the skater community. Original locations that were considered included Ragle Park, but between Booth and the skaters, they were able to convince city officials to build the park in a larger, more accessible area, which they determined to be behind the Chavez Center. Located right off the Arroyo Chamisos trail, the park serves a large part of the Santa Fe community.
Booth notes that the skaters' dedication is ultimately what made the project a success. She gestures to the kids skating behind her. "Skaters are not joiners, skaters are rebels. You can see it in them, jumping off ledges and into the abyss. But they stuck with it. These guys made this happen," she tells the crowd. "Not only do we have this beautiful space, we have a new group of young leaders who felt empowered to participate in the process to create this, and that's almost as important as having a new skate park."
Behind Booth, the skaters of Santa Fe were enjoying their new park. Ten-year-old Zadick Miller takes to his board, doing jumps and spins around the bowl. He tells SFR he's a lifelong skater who is excited about the park, "except for the graffiti," he adds shyly. Fellow skater and local teen Riley Edge chimes in: "I think it came out really well, everyone should come out and skate here!"
Mayor Javier Gonzales also stresses the value of the skate park and its potential for community participation. "We recognize that it's great to have swimming pools and parks, but if we really want be a city with maximum opportunity to participate in our public spaces, skate parks is an area we really have to make an investment in," he tells SFR.
In 2013, the city celebrated renovation of its older skate stucture at De Vargas Park. A skate park is also a popular feature at Franklin Miles Park in midtown. The newest effort had a pricetag of about $522,000 and utilized the Spohn Ranch design firm.
Further investments in skate parks do seem to be on the minds of city officials. During his remarks, Trujillo says he hopes the next venture is at Swan Park in Tierra Contenta. As the crowd cheers in support of the idea, he adds, "This is what it's about. Look at the kids. We just want kids the kids of Santa Fe to be kids at more places like this."