El Monte set to build its first skate and dog parks

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The city of El Monte has a concept design of the Gibson Mariposa skate park. Image courtesy of the city of El Monte.

Ethan Axtell, Community News Reporter

The city of El Monte is moving forward with its plan to build the city’s first dog and state parks. 

This month, the city council approved a contractor for the project, along with about $400,000 from its Art in Public Places funds, according to a city official. The council awarded a contract worth up to $551,000 to Spohn Ranch, Inc. for the project.

Late last month, the council also approved moving roughly $100,000 of so-called “Quimby Act” funds that will help build the skate park, which had been slated for Fletcher Park, to a skate park that will instead be located at Gibson Mariposa Park because of space concerns.

The Quimby Act funds are generally required to be spent on parks and recreation that serve the people where the fees were generated — but there is also an exception that allows the fees to be used in “park poor” neighborhoods, according to the city staff’s report on the issue.

People interviewed in El Monte said they looked forward to the new parks while others raised concerns about whether those parks would best serve the existing, primarily Latinx community. The city’s population is 66 percent Latinx and 21 percent of residents live below the poverty line, according to 2019 U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

To some, dog parks are a symbol of gentrification as much as the new coffee shops in their neighborhood while others prefer more and better soccer fields for their children over skate parks.

“Considering the different cultures that we have around in El Monte…Latinos [are] more into basketball and soccer fields, but those are very expensive to have sometimes. And baseball is another thing that could help, but maybe they can try to do some kind of combination of a park,” said Eddie Diaz, who visits his family in El Monte almost every week.

At the same time, he said, any kind of park space is an added benefit for the community.

“Well I personally believe that anything the city can do to improve the safety environment and recreation for kids and the youth is great,” he said.

The park was initially planned as an addition to Fletcher Park when the idea was discussed about a year ago. The main reason the plan moved to Gibson Mariposa Park is because it has more space, said Alexandra Marroquin, the Director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services.

The “Gibson Mariposa undeveloped area can accommodate a skate park of 7,000 square feet, as opposed to a skate spot of 2,500 square feet, which was proposed at Fletcher Park. Gibson Mariposa Park is more accessible and visible than Fletcher Park,” Marroquin wrote in an email.

Gibson Mariposa Park has an undeveloped area of 0.5 acres, or 21,780 square feet, she added.

Marroquin added that the feedback from three community outreach meetings, attended by more than 100 people, convinced the city to move on the plan.

“We want the city to engage all of its residents,” Marroquin said in a phone interview. “We don’t want people to have to go outside the city” to find a dog or skate park.

El Monte residents like Roy Perez have mixed feelings about the park.

“Well it’s good and it’s not good…because a skatepark brings a lot of people,” said Perez. “Skateparks just bring a crowd of kids, you know what I mean, and it can be a little rowdy… [with some possibly] smoking weed and all that stuff.” 

Still, Perez said it’s great that young people in the area will have somewhere to go after school.

 “It would be a good thing so kids can come after school..to the park and stuff [considering that] after school, a lot of [potentially negative] stuff happens.”

A groundbreaking for the planned dog park is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 22, at 10 a.m. while a groundbreaking for the skate park is Saturday, Feb. 29, at 11:30 a.m.

Community News reporters are enrolled in JOUR 3910 – University Times. They produce stories about under-covered neighborhoods and small cities on the Eastside and South Los Angeles. Please email feedback, corrections and story tips to UTCommunityNews@gmail.com.