Skaters Say Goodbye to Local Skate Park

Demolition makes way for new rec center in Huntington Park

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Skaters Say Goodbye to Local Skate Park

Construction continues digging out the remains of the Salt Lake Park skate park.

Construction continues digging out the remains of the Salt Lake Park skate park.

Photo by Joshua Letona

Construction continues digging out the remains of the Salt Lake Park skate park.

Photo by Joshua Letona

Photo by Joshua Letona

Construction continues digging out the remains of the Salt Lake Park skate park.

Joshua Letona, Community Photo Editor

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It was more than a skate park for generations of skaters. Salt Lake Park was a home. It was a place where skaters found friendship, community and a sense of belonging.

Mike Banuelos frequented the park as a child growing up in Huntington Park and remembered older kids passing their boards down to kids with cheap or broken boards.

“Every day, we were being the bigger homie that we didn’t have growing up. Respecting the younger homies, knowing that they’re the future skaters, and a lot of these kids come from broken homes in poor families,” Banuelos said in an interview last week. “The community of skaters — we respect…each other and watched out for one another. We are basically family.”

That’s why it has been hard for the skating community to watch the park being razed to make way for a third building in the park.

The new recreation center will feature a pool and indoor football field, according to Jesus De La Cruz, a recreation coordinator at the park.

Swimming ranked number one for 90 percent of 155 people who responded to a survey about what they want to see in their local park, according to the 2008 poll by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

Eleven years later, Huntington Park is finally getting that pool, which is exciting for many residents. Skaters, however, are ambivalent.

City Terrace resident Michael Rodriguez found out through photos from a friend. Rodriguez said he was there when the skate park was first opened about 19 years ago, as he was one of the petitioners for the park at just 11 years old.

“Even outside the park, people would recognize me and say, ‘Hey, you’re that kid who opened the skatepark.’ We’d see the same people all the time… so naturally a community was formed,” Rodriguez said in an interview conducted on Instagram.

Despite the history though, Rodriguez didn’t mind seeing the skate park go.

“Honestly, I was for it. When we were having meetings for the design of the park, there were discussions of permanence… The park worked for the time but I do believe the community needs something different,” said Rodriguez.

Similarly, Ryan Rene Perez, a Huntington Park resident, said a new center would help serve the community. Perez mentioned he had summer school at Salt Lake Park about 14 years ago, so the skate park became the place to go after school.

“It always felt like all our friends were either there or about to show up. One of my best friends, who I’ve known for 16 years now, used to jump over me with his skateboard,” Perez said in an email interview. “It was a ritual, like going to church or football practice. Get out of school, stop home for a snack and some money for later, and go to the skate park.”

As for Banuelos, when he first caught word of the changes to Salt Lake Park, he felt it was “very tragic.” Banuelos said skating is therapeutic and fondly recalled the days he spent learning and honing his tricks.

As skaters say goodbye to the now-razed skate park, Banuelos said he sees the silver lining in park improvements: “People need to spend more time with nature, under the sun instead of an indoor pool or indoor gym, but change is good and it makes the city look nice.”

Still, he added, “Goodbyes are never easy.”

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