A year late and $280,000 over budget, the city plans to debut it’s 18,000 square-foot Harrison Skateboard Park – the biggest in the Bay Area – in west Berkeley next month.
While skateboarders eagerly await the park’s completion, local businesses are concerned about the influx of young skaters. They fear that a crowded park, located in the industrial neighborhood at Fifth and Harrison streets, could lead to vandalism.
“You should see the rave parties they have here [now],” said one local worker.
But city officials say these concerns are being addressed.
“We’re going to have someone there [supervising] two hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the afternoon, and then from 6:30 until closing at 9:30,” said Ed Murphy, project manager for the city’s parks and waterfront department.
Murphy added that when there was no scheduled supervision, maintenance workers would patrol the park, and that after closing, the police department would make sure the park wasn’t used. The city is also constructing a 6-foot fence around the park to help enforce closing hours.
The park will be open 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
There will also be safety regulations at the new park regarding the use of helmets and pads.
But some skaters say added precautions are unnecessary.
“If you put skaters in a cage and have cops roll by to tag them for safety violations, it’s lame,” said Kevin Thatcher, a staffer at the skater magazine THRASHER. “The design could be great [but] they could screw [the new park] up by over-regulating it.”
Skate parks develop a community etiquette, skaters say, that allows skaters to regulate their own activities without outside supervision.
“You can’t pay some nanny to run around and tell people what to do, said Jake Phelps, editor of THRASHER.
The park will be the largest in the Bay Area and will feature two 8-foot bowls and 5-foot high ledges, rails and rolls.
Phelps was impressed by the park’s design. “Some people have skated it already and say it’s pretty good.”
With only a few concrete cracks to fill and a fence to build, Mark Mennucci, the skate park’s project manager, said the park should open sometime in September.
The park was originally scheduled to open last summer. However, construction was halted in November 2000 when the contractor, Morris Construction, hit ground water contaminated with the carcinogen chromium 6. The city spent about $265,000 to clean up the contamination, and built a gravel base below the concrete bowls to prevent further contamination.
“There’s no way waste is going to come up [now],” said Murphy.
The project was initially budgeted for $380,000. However, most of that money was used to treat the contaminated water. In 2001, the city allocated another $400,000 to complete the project with new contractor, Altman Engineers. Murphy estimated total project costs at $660,000.
Phelps expects a lot of skaters for the park’s opening months, but Thatcher says crowds tend to thin out after the first year.
“Skate parks are never going to be the end all and be all,” he said. “There is too much free asphalt. Kids are still going to go to Pier 7 [in San Francisco]”
When the park is ready for skaters, city officials are planning a low-key party.
“There will be a little celebration,” said Lisa Caronna, waterfront and parks director. “Some private companies wanted to do promotions right away, but we want to get a feel for how to run it and make sure that it services the neighborhood.”