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‘Stoked’: Berkeley skate community reacts to proposed new skate spot

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MANNY VALDEZ | CREATIVE COMMONS

The City of Berkeley is planning to construct a new official skate spot at James Kenney Park.

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NOVEMBER 17, 2022

The City of Berkeley is planning the construction of a new official skate spot at James Kenney Park to serve the community’s vibrant skate community.

The project is currently in its early planning phases and plans to incorporate design input from the local skating community, according to the city’s website. The skate spot will be located at 1720 Eighth Street and shares the same name as the nearby James Kenney community center and park.

“The skate community would really appreciate a new skatepark, especially if it is designed with their input,” said Tetsu Tokunaga, semi-retired senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in an email. “The need for more skateparks and skate spots becomes clear when observing that the Berkeley Skatepark is almost always in use, from late morning through the evening, while the many other sports fields and courts are more frequently empty.”

Similarly, Sean O’Loughlin, co-founder and executive director of the local skating non-profit SkateXP, highlighted the need to construct “a few more parks” given the limited capacity of popular skate spots, such as Berkeley Skate Park.

O’Loughlin added the new construction will be a welcoming skate spot for younger skaters due to its smaller size and less intimidating obstacles.

“The existing skatepark is pretty old and in need of improvements. It is insufficient for serving a city the size of Berkeley,” Tokunaga said. “Free, public skateparks are valuable resources, drawing diverse communities together in shared spaces.”

Many nuances of a skate park’s design such as the metal used on ledges, the precise dimensions of ramps and the slickness of concrete, tend to be ignored if the designer is not a skater, according to O’Loughlin. However, the new project’s construction plans to factor skater’s voices into the park’s design and construction.

O’Loughlin added that his organization SkateXP acts “as a translator between skating culture and the city culture.”

The city of Berkeley features a large and tight-knight skate community, according to campus senior Jonathan Napoles.

“There’s a lot of emphasis on community here in terms of everyone helping out,” Napoles said. “At the end of the day it helped us physically, mentally, in terms of our well being.”

O’Loughlin added that “skateboarding royalty” has historically come out of the East Bay, shaping the community’s lively skate culture.

To mobilize the large skating population on campus, Napoles co-founded the campus organization Skateboarding at Berkeley “in hopes of bringing a lot of homies together, finding new people, teaching them how to skate.”

As a local skater, Napoles added that he is “stoked” for the new skate spot at James Kenney Park.

“It’s always fun to go out with your friends and skate, especially if it’s a new skate spot,” Napoles said. “I can’t wait.”

Correction: A previous version of the article referred to Tetsu Tokunaga as a “self-proclaimed” semi-retired senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, when in fact his senior scientist classification was given to him midway through his career at Berkeley Lab, and it is his official title.

Contact Rachel Raps at 

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NOVEMBER 29, 2022