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San Jose skatepark avoids closure

2/3/2012
Steve Caballero was confident Lake Cunningham Regional Skate Park would remain open. Ben Karpinski

California's largest public skatepark will remain open and staffed through at least the end of the year as fundraising efforts headed up by skateboarders and their parents hit their mark.

Last year, the nearly 70,000-square-foot spread of sculpted concrete that is Lake Cunningham Regional Skate Park faced an uncertain future as San Jose plunged deeper into the worst budgetary crisis in the city's history. As city officials discussed privatizing the park, shutting it down, or letting it become an unstaffed free-for-all, local families banded together in an effort to keep it open and staffed.

"I don't think that the park was ever going to be closed," pro skateboarder Steve Caballero, who's lived in San Jose his whole life, told ESPN. The issue with the parents has always been about keeping it staffed, he explained, because they want a safe spot for their kids, without the trash, cussing, graffiti, and smoking and drinking that sometimes arise at unsupervised parks.

Annual memberships and summertime parking fees aside, Lake Cunningham "ranks as one of the best parks I've skated, as far as all the stuff to skate and how big it is," Caballero said. "It's not perfect but I'm definitely stoked it's there."

Last week, the San Jose Mercury News reported that the Save Our Skatepark fundraising group has scrambled together donations, sponsorship, and a lot more publicity for the $6.4 million facility, which opened in 2008 and draws an estimated 40,000 visitors annually. Since October, donations have topped $30,000 and, combined with a recent membership spike, the "park's turned the corner," said Councilwoman Rose Herrera, whose district includes the facility.

Meanwhile, in a celebratory victory lap of sorts, the park's Women Skate It Up contest on Jan. 28 drew about 25 female competitors, age 7 to 39 and from as far away as the Midwest to compete in three divisions. In the all-ages main event, held in the park's Skull Bowl, first place went to Arianna Carmona, from Buena Park, Calif.

The park is planning another contest for St. Patrick's Day.