Riding the rolling ocean waves is a draw for both locals and tourists to Washington’s beach towns. An inevitable cultural overlap exists between surfers and those who cruise, kick and grind on hard surfaces with skateboards.
But the same salty substance surfers crave to ride can be devastating to the places skateboarders love to visit.
Salty air and tenacious rain left the ramps of the old metal skatepark in Ocean Shores peeling and rusting to the point a structural engineer determined them a legal hazard. The park had to be shut down in July.
That led to an “uproar” from skateboarders and other riders concerned about the future of their park, recalled Ed Schroll, president of the Ocean Shores Parks and Conservation Foundation. Kristin Hartman, the foundation’s vice president, said phone calls and Facebook messages streamed in when the park shut down.
The park’s absence was temporary. Two months later, the construction of brand new ramps is nearly complete, which the parks foundation hopes will be a stepping stone to a full concrete skatepark in years to come.
“It was going to either be closed or somebody had to save it, and we saved it,” Schroll said.
On Labor Day, about 30 volunteers from the community — including many of the politicians currently running for political office — gathered on Minard Avenue near the golf course to help build the new park. The makings of the park — $47,000 of materials — had recently arrived: dozens of plywood boards, hundreds of screws, metal panels and sheets of Skatelite, a resin-paper composite material for the surface of the ramps.
As of Sept. 7 a few pieces of Skatelite still needed installing before the ramps would be ready and open to the public. Schroll estimated on Friday the park would take another week to complete.
The materials were pieced together like a “big giant erector set,” said Gary Pease, a member of the parks foundation and the city’s planning commission. Pease, a carpenter and former officer with the Army Corps of Engineer, took charge as foreman of the project, leading volunteers in slicing metal and cutting 200 pieces of plywood.
The new park — a pair of ramps two feet high, a pair of ramps four feet high, a new rail-like feature and a halfpipe — lies on the same concrete slab where the old metal ramps sat. Bob and Carol Rhoades, who pitched in to help build the park last week, recalled when the slab was poured in 2010, when the park was built. Bob Rhoades said he began fundraising for the park 10 years earlier after a murder in a gas station across the street spurred him to pursue a project to benefit youth.
Because of limited funding and availability of equipment, Rhoades seized an opportunity: when the city of Morrow Bay, California — his summer home — decided to ditch its set of metal ramps, Rhoades bought them for one dollar, loaded them into a truck and drove them to Ocean Shores.
“It can’t believe how blessed we were with the community effort,” Rhoades said.
A similar community effort helped the park with its most recent renovation, Schroll said, noting a fundraising effort at the IGA and a material donation from Arrow Lumber. The Ocean Shores Parks and Conservation Foundation, a 501 C-3 nonprofit, is not officially tied to the Ocean Shores city government, although several of its members also serve on the city’s parks board. The foundation was created last year to “support, improve and protect Ocean Shores Parks, green spaces, waterways, natural habitats and wildlife through community engagement, fundraising and advocacy,” and has recently supported several parks renovation projects.
In addition to community donations, the foundation received $35,309 from the city’s hotel/motel lodging tax, allocated by the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee and approved by the city council in April. Some on the city council questioned whether it was appropriate to use LTAC funds, meant for the purpose of promoting tourism or tourism related facilities, on the skatepark.
Hartman said the skatepark will be used by locals and tourists alike.
“Skating is something that tourists do,” Hartman said at an LTAC committee meeting earlier this year. “I think people and families come to the ocean not just to walk on the beach, but to do other things, shop, go downtown, and the skatepark is right in the middle of town.” The skatepark is in between Bennett’s Fish Shack and the city golf course.
The refurbished ramps will likely consolidate a previously “dispersed” group of skaters in Ocean Shores, said Craig Houston, a member of the parks board and skateboarder since age 15 (he’s now 33). He said the area is full of skaters but many opted not to use the old park because of the degraded condition.
The Skatelite material on the new ramps will provide better traction than did the slippery steel, Houston said, and will be better suited to riders of all ability levels.
Houston, a certified professional planner, assisted the parks foundation with the project. He said the skatepark project was the “impetus” for getting involved on the parks board after moving to Ocean Shores in the last few years.
“There’s so much done to cater toward an older population, but there’s really nothing that’s being done for the youth out here,” Houston said.
The new park will also keep skateboarders from riding on other city infrastructure, like the Convention Center or in front of city businesses, Houston said, because “skaters are going to skate wherever they find opportunity to.”
There was a period of time in Ocean Shores when skateboarding in certain areas of the city would earn a citation from the police, three of which would land riders in jail, said Ocean Shores surfer and skateboarder Nathan Murphy.
He remembers showing up to city council meetings to advocate for the original skatepark. Now, with a new adequate platform for riding, many skateboarders and riders in Ocean Shores have a rejuvenated excitement for the sport, he said.
“The stoke is back,” Murphy said. “I might just be speaking for myself, but I do believe the boys have a new stoke, just because this is going on.”
Despite the excitement, the new ramps are really just a “stop gap,” Schroll said. They’ll only last 7-10 years by the engineer’s estimate — enough time for the foundation to plan on and raise funding for the construction of a larger, permanent concrete skatepark.
Schroll said funding is a major challenge, and a permanent park has costs in the range of $500,000.
A community effort to build a concrete skatepark is underway in Westport, although much farther along than in Ocean Shores. There, $616,000 has been secured as of August for a new skatepark and pumptrack to be built next to the Westport library.
It took months to gather community donations and contributions from local businesses that would provide matching funds for a a $500,000 Local Parks grant from the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office, covering a significant chunk of the project’s $750,000 price tag. Project leader Darcia Davis said the grant contract still needs to be approved by the city of Westport before the next phases of the project can move forward.
A grant from the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office is also an option for a permanent skatepark in Ocean Shores, and will likely require support from the city, Hartman and Schroll said.