The region’s skating community is on the verge of losing a skatepark located in Renton, and they’re asking the city and state administrators to help them preserve their safe haven.
Longacres Skatepark is a do-it-yourself skatepark located off South Grady Way, underneath the Interstate 405 pass, and has attracted skaters from all over the region.
Local skaters and Renton residents Jack Skeel and Brian Foss headed the project last year when they were looking for a spot to skate during the rain.
”It’s really difficult to go out and try to find a place to skate when it’s raining,” said Skeel. “When we found this location under the bridge last year, and it had concrete paved underneath the bridge, it was dry. In thunderstorms and lightening, it was dry, bone dry down there. That’s a safe haven for skateboarders to find dry land around here.”
While its serves as a safe haven for many local skaters during a rainy day, it was also built on Washington State Department of Transportation property without permission.
WSDOT caught wind of the park and informed Skeel Nov. 16 of its plan to post an eviction notice Nov. 20, with a demolition scheduled for Nov. 22.
Time was of the essence. Skeel and his friends spread the word and nearly 20 skaters, skate enthusiasts and supporters from all over King County filled up Renton Council Chambers Nov. 20 to plead for help.
Residents from Snoqualmie, Seattle, Maple Valley, Federal Way, Tacoma and other neighboring cities signed up to address the council and ask for the city’s help to save the Longacres Skatepark.
Even with the mass appeal, the city’s hands were tied.
Mayor Denis Law reiterated multiple times during the meeting that the city has little to no power over the matter.
“We’re not opposed to skateboard parks but it is clear another state agency or county cannot abdicate their responsibility to the city,” Law said at the meeting. “It’s state-owned property. They must be responsible for liability, for the construction of the skateboard park, for all of the maintenance and upkeep.”
Chief Administrative Officer Jay Covington said in a phone interview Tuesday that the city contacted WSDOT over the matter, however at the end of the day, the skatepark is “in the hands of WSDOT… it’s their property.”
“We can’t and we wouldn’t dictate to another property owner or government entity what to do with their property,” he said.
Following the council meeting, the plans to demolish the skatepark was put on hold. Skeel said an eviction notice wasn’t posted Nov. 20.
Spokesperson Marqise Allen said WSDOT was notified of the skatepark during first week of November by a city of Renton employee. Following the council meeting, WSDOT decided to allow the skaters to go through a permitting process to lease the land.
“It’s safety for the public,” said Allen in a phone interview Wednesday. “We’ve got to be able to get access to the facilities, which is the bridge and maintain the highway. It also comes down to, more importantly I think so as well, the safety of the folks out there…. We want to give the folks there every opportunity they have to be able to keep the skatepark and go through the process”
Skeel said state representatives Steve Bergquist and Zach Hudgins have shown interest in the matter and were in contact with members of the skate community regarding the issue.
The Renton Reporter contacted Bergquist and Hudgins for a comment but did not receive a response before press deadline.
Skeel traces the DIY skatepark movement back to Portland, Oregon. A few years ago, the Portland skating community built a skatepark illegally, which was later sanctioned by the city. This caught the attention of skate communities across the nation and DIY skateparks have been popping up in various states ever since.
“They usually sprout up out of necessity, either when there isn’t a skatepark close or in our case when skateparks are wet all the time. They pop up when a community realizes they need more places to go,” said Skeel.
Longacres Skatepark was born out of a need, according to Skeel. There isn’t any other skate park in the region that’s covered and free to the public. The existing covered skateparks are privately owned and are used mainly for classes.
“All three of those places, they cater to children and skate lessons. For an adult, 18 and older… you have to pay to skate. There’s a lot of people around our area and around the south-end community that want a place to go when its rainy. We’ve been providing them with the place to go for the last year,” Skeel said.
The skatepark includes various hips, ditches and ramps, all of which Skeel and his friends built themselves last year. Skeel said he and his friends work in the construction industry and the quality of the skatepark reflects their professional expertise.
He estimates the skatepark took approximately $6,000 and more than 40,000 pounds of concrete to build. The group raised nearly $2,400 on GoFundMe for construction, and the rest was paid out of pocket.
Foss said the community has taken a lot of pride in the park’s construction and it’s evident in how it’s designed.
“Pride in craftsmanship, those things shine through,” he said. “We understand that if we want this place to stand up to the test of time, it needs to be built incredibly well. A lot of the people involved are in the construction industry in one way or another. So we’ve had great insight since the very beginnings. In order to make everyone happy, it needs to be safe and fun all at the same time.”
The quality, Skeel argued, is better than the existing Liberty Skatepark. He said he’s heard propositions regarding placing a roof over Liberty Skatepark as an alternative to the Longacres Skatepark, but wasn’t on board with the idea.
“(The Liberty skatepark) is 21 years old. It’s outdated. It’s aging. The concrete is lumpy…. (The skatepark) is large. To build a roof without any pillars in the way for the entire skatepark would be an eyesore… in a skateboarder’s mind, you can spend that money for a whole new skatepark elsewhere and people would be more happy about it than putting a roof over the existing one,” he said
Longacres Skatepark is largely self-governed. The skating community has taken upon itself to clean the area, to stay on top of maintenance and keep the skatepark a safe, family-friendly area.
“The skateboarders who go there build it and maintain it on a daily basis,” said Skeel. “They govern the area, they clean up the trash, they take out the trash bags, they fill it with more bags we bought ourselves. We keep the riffraffs out of that area. If there’s people coming through that are causing trouble, we try to keep those people out of the areas, like transients, bums or people who want to hang out and do drugs, and whatever. We really clean that up and govern that area and govern each other. There’s not a lot of other places where skateboarders have that much respect for a piece of property or land.”
However, the care the community provides to the skatepark might not be enough to save it. As members of the community waits to hear how WSDOT will choose to move forward, Foss said he’s hoping their message and story reaches state administrators.
“I haven’t put too much thought into what we would do next if the skatepark gets torn down. I’ve been concentrating all my effort on finding a creative solution that will allow us to stay. I hope we get the chance to speak to the right people and help them see what a special place this is,” he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The article has been updated to reflect WSDOT spokesperson’s comments.