Filed Under: (Mostly) Rad! Skate Park to Open Thursday in Hard-to-Skate-to Hazard Park.

A lone security guard ensures no skateboarders get in an early run at the new skate park before the official opening on Thursday. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Skateboarders are generally not the first people you think of when you think about livable streets.

Maybe I’m wrong about that, but I rarely hear discussion of them, their needs, or their aspirations come up in planning or other forums.

I find their omission kind of odd, given that skaters are perhaps the most active and creative users of public space — they take great joy in finding new and exhilarating ways to interact with every-day infrastructure.

The skateboard is also a cheap and popular form of transportation for urban youth, helping them move safely and swiftly through areas they might otherwise be reluctant to walk through.

And it can give youth in troubled neighborhoods a buffer from the pressure to join a gang. Knowing skaters keep to themselves, gang members tend to leave groups of skaters alone, even if they are from outside the neighborhood (as long as they look like skaters, that is). So, even when skate parks are located in areas of intense gang activity, it is not unusual to see a wildly diverse mix of kids from around the city gathered there, on a completely different plane from the chaos around them.

But, instead of celebrating the power of the humble skateboard, cities tend to move in the opposite direction. Public spaces are skate-proofed and skateboarders are seen as transgressive and regularly pushed out of public areas. In Boyle Heights, where skateboarding is prevalent, youth tell me that the Sheriffs often harass and demean them (sometimes with racial epithets, many complained) when they try to hang out in places like Mariachi Plaza.

Which might explain why I found a young skater staring forlornly at the newly-renovated but still fenced-in skate park in Hazard Park yesterday.

He had seen a picture of it on Instagram, he said, and it looked so beautiful that he had to come by and test it out.

He explained that the previous skate park there had been so cracked up and poorly maintained that nobody ever went there to skate. Instead, he and his friends would head over to Lincoln Heights. It was usually overcrowded, he said, but there were few other places they could go.

“What about the one in Hollenbeck Park?” I asked.

It was for more expert skaters, he explained. And it was small, so there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to play around and learn. The new one at Hazard Park looked like it was still on the tougher side of intermediate, but it would give him and his friends some place to go in their own neighborhood and a chance to learn new tricks.

He sighed again.

“The picture I saw didn’t show any fences around it. And the security guard just did this [he makes a waggling motion] with his finger when I asked when it was opening.”

I reassured him it was opening this week.

My only concern, I said, was that skaters would have a hard time getting there.

I had ridden my bike up Soto and had felt like I had taken my mortality into my hands. The road narrows as it heads north up the hill alongside the park. Drivers are not patient and honk liberally.

Screen shot 2014-07-23 at 7.57.35 AM
The roadway heading north along Soto toward Hazard Park. (Google maps)

And the sidewalk on the east side provides little in the way of refuge. It sits at the base of a hillside, much of which seems to have tumbled down on top of it. Sidewalks on the northwest side of the park are in lamentable condition — some are nothing more than dirt/gravel paths.

What remains of the east sidewalk. (Google maps)
What remains of the east sidewalk. (Google maps)

It’s not comfortable or easy going for skaters, bikers, or pedestrians, in other words.

Especially because there are few places to cross Soto to get to the park, and few paved entryways that would make it more easily accessible.

There are few access points to the park from Soto. (Google maps)
There are few access points (e.g. trails or sidewalks) into the park from Soto, which runs along the east side of the park (at right). (Google maps)

Despite it sitting directly across the street from a neighborhood, the design of access to the park appears to have been guided by the expectation that no one would ever walk to it.

All of which is unfortunate, considering the historic importance of the park as a gathering space during the school walk-out protests of the late 1960s.

But some improvements are coming.

The skate park, created with the help of the Diamond Supply Co., Street League Foundation, California Skateparks, The California Endowment, and the Department of Recreation and Parks, is the first of $1 million in improvements that USC (who shares space in the area) has committed to. The expected improvements include a new jogging/running path, new outdoor fitness equipment, a new toddler play area, additional security lighting, financial support for the park’s youth sports programs, and upgrades to the park gym, outdoor basketball/tennis courts and restrooms.

The skate park will open with a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday, July 24th, at 5 p.m. The park is located at 2230 Norfolk St, and the skate park is a short walk to the south of the rec center and basketball court.

  • Erick Huerta

    hopefully this one doesn’t get taken over by pro-skaters like Hollenbeck or Belvedere. It’s cool to see them do their thing, but kids are just watching on the side with their boards, waiting for the turn at it

  • anthony virgen

    I live on soto, right across the street from the park. From living in Hazard my whole life, i can guarantee you the park will be vandalized within the first week, which is very sad because not everyday do they open a beautiful skatepark for the youth to enjoy… but then again it is the youth who destroy it

  • nomascerveza

    What are you talking about? Go to any skatepark in LA lots of kids skating.

    LA is killing the skatepark game, Sheldon opened last month, Hazard, and Peck open up soon. I can’t wait until they redo Lake st that is overdue.

  • sahra

    yeah, that kid i spoke with was telling me that it was because Hollenbeck’s site was built for skaters with more expertise. it’s not that it was necessarily taken over by the pros, it is that the other skaters don’t have the skills to use the facility. so he was excited about Hazard’s new park, although he said it was a bit above intermediate… he was still hoping he’d be able to do some stuff there.

  • davistrain

    I suspect that many members of the “powers that be” equate skaters with “juvenile delinquents” or “punk kids with nothing better to do”, and do not see skateboards as a legitimate form of transport. Hard to believe that they were young once.

  • User_1

    Check, check, and check. Every point made above is a good point on skaters.

    I live in LB and every neighbor skating part I ride by is active with kids participating with it. Sure there must be some tagging or what have you, but still, it’s being used by them and is far cry from what is seen being built for “grown-ups”.


Long Beach: Final Meeting Held on Armory Park

The final meeting regarding the proposed Armory Park near 7th and Alamitos brought forth vast traffic changes to the 7th and 6th passageways, while also raising basic community concerns about what the park will be and how it will function. Originally developed by Brian Ulaszewski from nonprofit design studio City Fabrick back in 2007, Armory […]