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Skateboarders, BMX riders must jump through red tape

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Posted: Friday, May 18, 2001 10:00 pm

For skateboarders and BMXers, jumping is second nature.

But while a potential bone-crunching stunt on a skate ramp or bicycle motocross track usually calls for more of a spur-of-the-moment leap of faith, Lodi’s youthful acrobats are learning that jumping through bureaucratic hoops is a much more wait-and-see and wait-and-see-some-more process.

Patiently they’ve waited, and soon, they will see.

After exhaustively lobbying for a skate park for more than a year and a BMX track for two years, Lodi’s skateboarders and bikers should learn in the coming weeks if their red-tape-cutting efforts will result in ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

Almost one year after a public skate park committee made up of six teen-agers and two adults was formed to study the possibility of bringing a skate park to Lodi, the group will go before the City Council on June 6 seeking approval for City Manager Dixon Flynn to sign a contract with Spohn Ranch, Inc., a skate park builder from the City of Industry outside of Los Angeles.

“We’re really excited,” said 17-year-old Jarred Callahan, one of the teen-age skaters on the skate committee. “It’s a big decision. It’s been exciting to see how things work through this whole process, but it’s also been frustrating.

“Hopefully we’ll have a proposal that (council members) can’t deny.”

Not only did the group hold public meetings and give presentations, it also played a role in selecting the location, style and builder of the skate park.

Kofu Park on Ham Lane was eventually chosen as the site for the park, at the southern basin next to the tennis courts.

“It’s been quite a long and very involved process,” said Mike Reese, a parks and recreation supervisor who’s acted as liaison between the city and the public committee.

An approximately 16,000-square-foot concrete pad would be built in the drainage basin, on which modular ramps, which can be adjusted to different configurations, would be placed.

Cost estimates for the park run between $210,000 and $240,000.

While Parks and Recreation Director Roger Baltz is optimistic about the June 6 meeting’s outcome, he also understands that such projects are sometimes ambiguous ventures.

“Projects can become complicated at any time, due to several different reasons,” said Baltz, explaining that traffic, lighting or any number of concerns can arise at any moment. “Hopefully the citizens will see this as an enhancement.”

Community Development Director Konradt Bartlam, whose department conducted an environmental study on the skate park project and gave it the go-ahead, said it’s now up to the council to certify the results.

Reese said the study stated that any noise from the skate park would be negligible, with 17,000 cars already traveling on Ham Lane each day. He also noted that lighting shouldn’t be a problem since the tennis courts and ballfield at Kofu Park are also lighted.

“I think it’s a perfect fit. There’s good transportation, including public transportation in the area.

“We also chose equipment that handles weather better and is quieter,” Reese said, referring to the polyethylene material that will be used.

Currently, the city is still negotiating terms of the contract with Spohn Ranch, Baltz said.

Spohn Ranch, the world’s largest skate ramp company, is privately owned and operates 15 similar parks throughout the United States, including three in California, with the closest in Roseville. Spohn would accept responsibility for any injuries at the park.

Liability was a factor in the closing of Lodi’s previous skateboarding endeavor, the Five-O Skate Park. In 1996, a 15-year-old severed both of his wrists when he smashed through a glass window at that facility. The city was sued, and the park closed in 1999.

Reese said it’s tough to estimate how quickly a contract could be signed if the council gives the go-ahead.

The city would need to do some work on the property, most notably capping off and moving an irrigation line, and fencing the property.

Spohn would then come in and set up a pro shop and lay down the fixture. Spohn Ranch’s management partners, Sanctuary Skate Parks, Inc., would operate the skate park in a public-private partnership with the city.

Most likely, memberships would be offered, probably six months to one year at a cost of $40 or $50, Reese said. Once a membership is purchased, it would probably cost around $3 per skate session.

“You’d like for it to be free, but it doesn’t work like that,” Callahan said. “You have to realize they’re a business and they have to make money.

“We’re pushing hard for $3 per session. And they seem interested in trying to accommodate everyone,” Callahan added, explaining that certain days could be set aside for free sessions. And to make sure that the park isn’t just for elite skaters, there also could be a session for kids 10 and under, Callahan said.

Spohn Ranch would return between three and eight percent of the skate park’s revenue to the city, which could be as much as $15,000 to $20,000 annually, said Dave Vacarezza, president of skate park committee.

Reese said it’s hard to judge when the park might open, but added that it would be nice if kids were skating on Labor Day weekend.

As for the BMX track, Bartlam said his department is in the process of publishing its environmental report.

A public hearing will probably occur sometime in June, he said.

Bartlam, who said the skate park should encounter few problems, noted that it’s even less likely the BMX track will run into any problems due to its proposed location at the Century Boulevard extension on the north side of Salas Park, south of Kettleman Lane.

Last November, the council approved drafting an agreement with Oak Creek BMX, which currently operates its only track in Roseville, to construct and operate a track at the proposed site.

At that same meeting, the council also accepted a $5,250 grant from the National Recreation and Parks Association which will go toward building the track and its starting gates.

The track would be formed from a high-content dirt and watered down to control dust during use. A sound system would also be installed, along with concession stands, lights and bleachers.

Upon completion of the track, a fence would be erected to eliminate illegal entrance.

Bikers would have to purchase a membership for $45 through the American Bicycle Association, which would cover insurance costs, Oak Creek BMX owner and operator Bruce Minton said.

The membership would allow the bikers to ride at any ABA track, of which there are currently 32 in Northern California.

The cost would be $5 for the only practice session during the week, which most likely would be from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, and $10 on race days, which would be 6 to 9:30 p.m. Thursdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Minton said.

Trophies would be handed out on race days, he said.

But before anyone jumps on the track or at the skate park, there’s still a few bureaucratic hoops to clear.

“Everyone’s been patient but getting tired of all the hoops you have to jump through,” says Kim Ruoff, a parent of BMXers that first brought the idea of a track before the Parks and Recreation Commission in April of 1999.

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