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Friday, January 27, 2012
Calif. skatepark builds momentum

By Keith Hamm
ESPN.com

Chocolate Skateboards team rider Kenny Anderson is just one of several driving forces behind ongoing efforts to build a free, public skateboard park on Southern California's Palos Verdes Peninsula.

The 35-year-old father of three, who's been pro for Chocolate for nine years and living on the peninsula -- known locally as the Hill -- for eight, says that "one of the main things right now is finding the right location and having the city's OK and the community's OK."

Getting the community's approval gained considerable traction last week when Skatepark PV, a nonprofit organization heading up the cause, won a Torrance Community Television Award for its 30-second public service announcement.

"[For the PSA] it was important for us to use kids in the community that will benefit from the skatepark," says Stannie Ramsey, who wrote and directed the PSA, adding that the common misperception is that skaters are troublemakers and druggies, when they're mostly just regular kids who also like to play more traditional sports. As part of the award, Skatepark PV won a new Samsung camcorder.

Before this latest accolade, progress on the skatepark got the biggest boost last fall, says the nonprofit's founder, Ellen November. That's when the city of Rancho Palos Verdes hired landscape architects Mia Lehrer & Associates to spearhead the skatepark site analysis project.

November does not skate, nor do her grown children. She says she just thinks that her community can do better: What really got her going on this skatepark mission a few years back was watching teenage skateboarders scatter from their hangout spots whenever cops or security guards pulled up. Skating in certain areas on the Hill is illegal and can carry a $90 fine. In other areas, skateboarding is legal on the street. "If your city does not have a skatepark, your city is a skatepark," says November, adopting an effective catchphrase of skatepark advocates nationwide.

"We have more than 3,000 skaters in our community," she says. "And they are not going to stop skating." Education is a big part of November's push for a skatepark, explaining that the Hill's community is generally older and conservative and more inclined to think of skateboarding as a fad, phase, or trend. "I have to make sure that they know skateboarding is more of a mainstream sport now, and that it's only getting bigger," she says. "Name any sport at all, you can do it here. Except skateboarding."

As the city explores potential skatepark sites, including Fred Hesse and Ladera Linda parks, November will push forward with fundraising efforts. A summer benefit with local bands and skate ramps for the kids pulled in $9,000, she told ESPN. And last fall, the Off the Hook art show brought in about $5,000. At that event, November joined forces with Gabe Dupin de Saint Cyr, the marketing supervisor of the nearest Whole Foods Market. In addition to donating many pizzas, bottles of water and snacks to the event, he agreed to donate $1 for every new "Like" tallied at the Facebook page of the market's Torrance location, up to $300. Anderson spread the word, and at the end of the two-week promotion, with 550 new "Likes" on its page, the market donated $300 to Skatepark PV.

"You don't see many overweight unhealthy skateboarders," says Dupin de Saint Cyr, who was an active skateboarder until a skatepark slam in 2003 left him with two steel plates and 13 pins in his ankle. "Whole Foods is all about promoting healthy living. I'm committed to helping [Skatepark PV] fundraising events."

Anderson believes that because the skatepark will be free and open to the public, the city should commit some of its parks and recreation budget toward the project. "I feel like the city should pay for it, but we're trying to raise the money too," he told ESPN over the phone while heading down the Hill to meet up with filmmakers now working on his part for the upcoming Girl/Chocolate film.

"I'm looking to raise $400,000," November says, explaining that that amount ought to cover the cost of concrete for a 10,000-square-foot skatepark. "We're about one third of the way there."