Changing the Derby skatepark

Courtesy of Aaron Godoy

Santa Cruz's beloved Derby skatepark.

Within 24 hours of a construction fence going up around Santa Cruz, Calif.'s Derby skatepark last week, local skateboarders gathered to occupy the legendary slab of concrete and get in one last session.

At issue was the city's plan to overlay the park with four inches of fresh, reinforced concrete -- altering the curves and lips of a spot that's been skated continuously since the mid-1970s -- and to do so with little to no input from local skaters.

"Initially, [the skaters] were in pissed-off mode," Bill Ackerman, owner of Bill's Wheels skate shop, told "The big thing that [city officials] did wrong is they didn't give enough public notice about the project." Cooler heads have since prevailed, Ackerman added, and officials and construction crews are now listening to Derby locals as all parties attempt to duplicate the park's historical dimensions.

But before the facelift got under way, upward of four dozen skaters, including Santa Cruz natives Emmanuel Guzman and defending X Games Skateboard Park gold medalist Raven Tershy, reportedly convinced contractor Mike Greenwald to put the project on hold long enough for what's now being called the heaviest session in Derby's storied history.

One of the first public skateparks on the planet, Derby remained open and free through skateboarding's concrete dark ages from the late 1970s through the early '80s as skateparks across the country got bulldozed because of skyrocketing insurance premiums. All along, it's been a pads-optional, barbecue-friendly, go-to spot for the Northern California beach town, home to some of skateboarding's oldest and most respected brands.

City parks superintendent Mauro Garcia told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that the city was concerned with cracks in the existing surface. "It was getting to the point where we were going to have to shut it down. We have to provide a safe environment."

Garcia added that the city's outreach "strategy … didn't work. I'm going to take the blame for this." As construction continues and skaters come to terms with the fact that the original Derby skatepark will soon be buried beneath several inches of concrete, they've found a silver lining in contractor Greenward, who also skates.

When Greenward found out about the project, he said he put in a competitive bid because he "didn't want it to fall into the hands of some contractor who didn't skate or didn't understand the history of this park."

The project is scheduled to be completed on May 17.

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