Warmer weather brings youth to skate park

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 23:00
Weather and wear eroding temporary structures downtown, but Chugiak to get improved facility
Joshua Macalino, 15, sails over the top of a quarter pipe on his scooter Friday, April 11, at the temporary skate park in downtown Eagle River. Youth at the park said the infrastructure there is falling apart. A permanent park slated for Loretta French Park in Chugiak is in the design phase and expected to be complete by August.

It was 42 degrees outside with a stiff wind, but already more than a half-dozen youth were grinding the rails last Sunday at the Eagle River skate park.

But all of them were riding scooters.

“Skateboarding’s still popular,” said Chugiak High School junior Joshua Macalino. “Out here, scootering’s been progressing.”

When asked who the best rider in the group was, Mirror Lake Middle School students Isaiah Homan and Taani Joest smiled and pointed to Macalino.

“He started all this,” Homan said.

Macalino said he’s been scootering at the skate park for about four years, and he’s taught a lot of other kids who use the park how to do tricks. The group uses his GoPro camera to take video footage of the young men doing tricks and riding. They edit the videos, set them to music, and post them on their YouTube channel, Eagle River Scoot.

The skate park is “a good spot to make friends, learn new tricks,” Macalino said. “It’s a good way to connect with other people.”

According to Alaska Star archives, local youth attended a Parks and Recreation Department meeting in October 2000 to advocate for building a skate park in Eagle River, citing the lack of facilities for BMX bikers and skaters to play and practice.

“Eventually they got temporary equipment, it’s not permanent,” said Chugiak Eagle River Chamber of Commerce president Susan Gorski. “It’s been at a couple different places, trying to find out the best location. We’re pleased to see there are facilities for them. I think we need something permanent.”

The skate park equipment is currently located on Business Boulevard, in a parking area between Garcia’s Cantina and Café and the former location of Eagle River’s theater. One of the park’s two quarter pipes – curved ramps for doing tricks – has been worn down over time and removed, Homan said, along with a straight ramp. A low metal two-step structure for doing tricks is rusting, has a large crack and is coming apart, Macalino said.

“A concrete park, stuff that can last for years and years,” is needed if people are still going to have somewhere to go for recreational skating, BMX biking and scootering, Macalino said.

Plans for a permanent park in Eagle River met sharp resistance from nearby neighbors during an Eagle River/Chugiak Parks and Recreation board meeting last year, who feared it would bring “vandalism, underage alcohol use, drugs and other crimes to the area,” according Star archives (“Park board kills skate park plan,” Alaska Star, Jan. 16, 2013). Minutes of the meeting show that a permanent location was sought in part because Hickel Investment Company intends to build a third building in the parking lot where the temporary skate park is.

Advocates for a permanent skate park scored a recent win, however, when the board approved a skate park for Loretta French Park in Chugiak at its March 10 meeting. The park is currently in the design phase, and slated to be open by August of this year.

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