Sunday, July 21, 2024

Students Rally to Bring a Skate Park to Anderson Valley

(L to R)Noor Dawood, facilitator of the service learning team, students Aster Arbanovella, Kellie Crisman, Ananda Mayne, Onawa Kellner and Mariana Zavala-Camacho. Local parent Brennon Moore is on the end. [Picture by Sarah Reith]

Skateparks are having a moment in the local unincorporated communities, with Round Valley and Anderson Valley working to bring them to their neighborhoods.

Students of the Anderson Valley Service Learning Team, an after-school program at the junior and high schools, are tantalizingly close to finding out if they’ll have the money they need to build a skating venue on a plot of land next to the Community Park, which is right next to the airport and the health clinic. The group is operating under the auspices of the Community Services District, which bought the land from the school district for one dollar in May of this year.

Ananda Mayne, a tenth grader in the after-school project, said, “Without a skate park, without somewhere to go outside and interact with people and stay active, you can get very, very bored, and that can make you very, very sad.”

Mariana Zavala-Camacho is a senior who has spent her whole life in Anderson Valley. She added that, growing up, she and her friends would “just do random things to keep ourselves entertained, because we had nothing. Some of us didn’t live close enough to each other, so you’d just kind of be at home, kicking a rock or something.”

All the members of the service learning team agree that ninth grader Onawa Kellner is the skater of the group. He likes to visit the skate park in Ukiah, but when he’s at home, he makes do, skating in parking lots, at the post office in Philo, or in his driveway, “But it’s dirt, so it’s not that great,” he acknowledged.

Things haven’t changed much since Brennon Moore, a new father in his forties, was about Onawa’s age. “Growing up here, it was a little difficult,” he recalled. Parking lots at schools and the fairground were popular, and he has fond memories of the PacBell station in town, which had a particularly inviting ledge where skaters could do a few tricks. “I think there was one point in time where we started to build our own skateboard ramps and stage them at the elementary school,” he added; but that was short-lived.

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As for Onawa, the feature he’d most like to see in the skatepark is a manny pad. “It’s just like a box, and you can Ollie up onto it and grind and stuff,” he elaborated.

Aster Arbanovella, a tenth grader who likes to roller skate, estimates that the park will be done in the summer of 2025, saying, “It’s a really long time, but…I’m graduating in 2026, so it’ll hopefully be something I’ll get to enjoy the year before I graduate.”

That’s if they get a $1.3 million grant from CalTrans, which Noor Dawood, who facilitates the service learning team, is expecting to hear about any day now. She said the skatepark itself will cost half a million dollars to build, “But that’s just the concrete.” The drainage in the area is complicated, so it will need a drainage swale. Then there are bathrooms and a shaded area and a pollinator garden, “So there are several things that add up,” to about $1.1 million, she concluded. She promised that even if they don’t get the grant, which will enable them to complete the facility by summer of 2025, “The skatepark will still happen. We’ll just have a longer road of fundraising to complete in order to reach a point where we can start planning and development.”

The group has raised $48,570 so far, largely by selling screen-printed tote bags and T-shirts. Ananda added that they got a nice boost when they encountered Assemblymember Jim Wood and Senator Mike McGuire on a field trip in March. Usually, members of the service learning team go camping. “But sometimes, we also go to the capitol in Sacramento,” she related. The team told their state representatives about the skatepark project, and they agreed to write a letter of support. “That helps a lot with getting grants,” she noted. “What we didn’t expect was after we left, they were talking among themselves, and they decided that our project was really impressive. We were a good group of students who are really passionate about our project, so they decided to go into their special fund, and donate a quarter of a million dollars.”

Wood will present a giant mock-up of the check to the group at a fundraising event they’re holding at the Anderson Valley Brewing Company on Saturday, September 16th. Bands with great names will perform, and there will be lots of swag with pictures of large banana slugs riding skateboards.

Twelfth grader Kellie Crisman has been involved with the skatepark project since junior high. She said the service learning team bought screen printing equipment and learned from an alumna how to design the swag, which has been a whole project in itself. “It’s kind of a way to bring people who are more into art into the project, people who might not necessarily be skaters, but really enjoy the art aspect of things,” she said. “Just in general, we’ve learned a lot through it, and it’s been really fun to learn how to do something brand-new for this.”

Moore thinks of skating as an art. “Not only that, it’s so communal,” he reflected. “I think that’s what’s the most beautiful thing about it. The communal space, and the support that it creates.”

“We really want a skatepark here,” concluded Zavala-Camacho.* “I want future kids here to have fun, instead of going to the creek and doing dumb things.”

*Thanks to Mariana Zavala-Camacho for contributing to the reporting of this piece by recording interviews with her peers.

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Sarah Reith
Sarah Reith
Sarah Reith is a radio and print reporter working in Mendocino and Humboldt counties, focusing on local politics and environmental news.

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