Aug. 20, 2013
By Tiobe Barron, OVN correspondent
Several members of the public voiced concerns about the Ojai Skate Park during last week’s joint meeting of the Ojai City Council and the Ojai Parks and Recreation Commission.
“We discussed this at the last Parks and Recreation Commission meeting at great length, probably an hour, hour and a half,” said Commission Chair Randy Haney. “After a long debate regarding the skate park, the majority of the commission was in strong belief that the way the policies are written, the way the procedures are and the way the skate park has been set up, we’re all in agreement it should stay that way. With the concerns of the citizens regarding scooters, one of the resolutions that came out of that was to maybe think about doing a mini scooter park at the recreation center, and get the 7, 8, 9 and 10-year-olds at that facility actually doing that. As far as bikes, they’re not a part of the policy right now, other than they’re not allowed. Again, what we came to the conclusion of, was maybe we need to put together a group of people, and maybe we need to think about how we initiated this skate park, and maybe we want to do a BMX park. We’re open to having that discussion with the public.”
This approach to the use of the skate park was not satisfactory for some, however.
“I know a lot of people with Skate Ojai spent a lot of time putting this together. At the time, my son was a skateboarder, and now he’s a BMX rider. So I have a different perspective now,” said Ojai resident Tobi Greene. “I really would like to work together with Skate Ojai … If you were to go by the skate park right now, there’s nobody in it, and there is a bunch of BMXers that really want some time in there. The BMX bikes without pegs really aren’t harming anything, and I would love to see some hours for the BMXers.”
“Just to let you guys know a little bit about me: I’m fifth-generation Ojai (resident), been here my whole life, grew up in the third house built in Meiners Oaks. I think making these younger kids on the scooters that have wheels that are softer than skateboarders’ not allowed in there, and getting tickets that are hundreds of dollars is absolutely ridiculous,” commented Bryan Booher. “My kids looked forward to going to the skate park, and now they don’t. I hung around there today, just to see what was going on. I saw a guy in a Volvo. Three different times I saw people going up there and buying stuff from him. I can’t tell you what it is, but I’ve got a pretty good idea. Nobody does anything about it, but you’re worried about some little kids on scooters? I think it’s time for us to look at the youth.”
The Ojai Skate Park rules state, “This facility is for skateboarding, in-line skating and roller skating only.” After numerous speakers questioned the difference between skateboards, scooters and BMX bikes in terms of logistics and each devices’ use in the park, Councilman Severo Lara asked if there was information available to the public regarding why bikes and scooters are prohibited.
“The number one reason is collision. When we designed the park, we had that specific use in mind,” answered Skate Ojai President Chet Hilgers. “The skate park was designed and built specifically for skateboarding. That’s the way the flow was designed, that’s the way it was manufactured and built. To change the use after the fact would be cost prohibitive, and you would have to supervise it, and that’s not going to happen. What I would say to the people that want to BMX: I think it’s great. Let’s build a BMX park somewhere, get everybody together and do that. There were nearly 1,600 people that gave in some way to the skate park. That’s a lot of people to consider when you want to change the use for people who ride bikes.”
Mayor Paul Blatz asked how many people from the BMX community were present during the public hearing process of forming and constructing the skate park, to which Hilgers replied he could not name one.
“People can work just as hard to build a BMX park,” offered Mayor Pro Tem Carlon Strobel.
“When the skateboard park was designed, with all of the input from the public, there was very little — if any — input from the scooter people or from any bike people, and it was not designed, nor opened, for any purpose to do with bicycles. It was opened solely for the purpose of skateboards,” said Blatz. “It took years and years and years of effort for the skateboarders to put that park together. They did it. There was very little — if any — input from bicyclists, that’s for sure. That’s why it wasn’t designed for them. And now, after the fact, when you want to come forward, it’s going to create a problem. So, if you guys want to get out on the street and start collecting signatures on petitions, try to get enough so you can do your own park, or even get enough signatures on a petition that it’s going to bring to our attention that there are a whole lot of bicyclists that want to use that park, and then we can determine whether they will do any damage to it, that’s what I suggest you do.”
“I just want to make it clear to anyone out there that the Recreation and Parks Commission is set up for the community, for the citizens, and we want you to come to our meetings, and we want you to come and talk about this issue,” concluded Haney.
Greene is hosting an informational and organizational meeting for those interested in opening a BMX park in town. The meeting is set for Wednesday at 5 p.m. at The MOB Shop, 110W. Ojai Ave. Email Greene at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
Visit www.ci.ojai.ca.us for information on upcoming Parks and Recreation Commission meetings.