La Verne Magazine
"Tradition & Change"
Skateboarding Finds a Home in La Verne
by Allison Moore
photography by Matt Wright
Once an unorganized activity, skating has experienced a re-birth at
La Verne's Pioneer Park. Pete Ruiz, 22, a Monrovia resident, takes the pyramid
at full speed and attempts to clear the tabletop.
A sign posted at the front entrance of the Pioneer Skate Park in La
Verne reads: "Skating is a Hazardous Activity. Skate at your own risk."
To La Verne's local skateboarders and in-line skaters, this sign is an invitation
to the sport that many call "extreme."
"Skating is an art form and a sense of expression," declares
Anthony Leone, 19, from Hacienda Heights, a regular user of Pioneer Park.
For skaters like Leone, Pioneer Skate Park is a safe refuge where they can
skate freely. Like many cities, La Verne has an ordinance against skating
in certain public areas, including streets, sidewalks, pedestrian walkways
or parking areas within a shopping center or business district. Skaters
may not skate in a manner that creates a "nuisance." For local
skaters, that vastly limits the challenging places in which to perform "the
During the early '80s, facilities such as the Pipeline in Upland existed
in which skaters could enjoy challenging elements, without becoming a "nuisance."
Such places sparked the interest of skaters, but many of the original parks
no longer exist. Indeed, for the last decade, skating has had a bad reputation.
Like many other skaters, Ryan Miller, 20, of Ontario, and an employee of
Utility Board Shop in La Verne, experienced the death and re-birth of skating.
"Skating was at its peak, then died some time around 1989." Miller
explains, "It just wasn't popular anymore."
Robert Wilson, 24, from Glendora, soars out of the southern bowl at
Pioneer Park. Pioneer Park, open for a year, is known to aficionados of
the sport as a premiere facility. Daily, skaters from around the southland
make a pilgrimage to the park, located near the Bonita High School athletic
fields, and practice jumping tabletops, grinding rails and dropping into
bowls. While many on the outside may view skating as a risky sport, Devin
Harden, code enforcement officer of the skate park, says, "There have
been fewer injuries than the public or community anticipated."
David Nguyen, 25, from La Mirada, a regular at Pioneer Park, attributes
the disappearance of skating to a bad reputation given to the sport. "They
were associated with crimes such as tagging and fighting." He explains
that the overall industry was bad. Miller says that skating is making a
comeback primarily because of the impact of media events such as the Extreme
Games, also known as the X-Games. Despite the exposure that the X-Games
have given skating, many skaters do not appreciate their contribution. "It's
all corporation nonsense," argues Leone. "There's no such thing
as extreme. I've been skating before it was extreme." Other skaters
agree. "I call it the 'Exploitation Games.' People see that, and they
think that is what skateboarding is about, and it is not at all," says
For local skaters, the X-Games do not embody what is real for most skaters.
The ramps and jumps used during the competitions are not realistic. They
feel that it shows viewers a false picture of what skating is all about.
"People don't skate because they want to make money," adds Miller,
"They skate because it is fun. The X-Games pump up the people who do
not need to get pumped up," elaborates Miller. "It loses the root
of what it really is."
In light of the fact that skaters disagree with the promotion that the
X-Games have given skating, they agree that they have prompted acknowledgment
among the public.
Prior to the opening of Pioneer Park, local skaters had to contend with
the law if they wanted to skate within the city limits. "They would
harass you for no reason," claims Fernando Orbea, a resident of La
Verne for nine years. He says that many skaters love to do tricks on rails,
ledges and gaps between concrete. Unfortunately, these spots are primarily
found in places where La Verne prohibits skating, like business and shopping
centers. Skaters were desperate for a place in which they could enjoy their
La Verne resident Adam Parker, 14, makes use of one of the many
Following the lead of the city of Claremont, La Verne decided to build
its own skate park. La Verne's Youth & Family Action Committee had been
encouraging a skate park in La Verne for several years. Liability was an
issue that needed to be resolved before the La Verne City Council would
support such a facility. The support was there already from the city leaders.
"The community recognizes that skating is a legitimate sport, and it's
here to stay," says Jeff Allred, assistant city manager.
In response to La Verne's interest, the city of La Verne gained a $135,000
grant from the County of Los Angeles to build Pioneer Park, an 8,085 square
feet facility operated in partnership with Bonita High School. Pioneer Park
was virtually donated to the city of La Verne with the understanding that
city officials would post and regulate the use of safety equipment. "It
was an enthusiastically unanimous decision in favor of the park by the City
Council, and it continues to be," proclaims Allred, "It enhances
the quality of life for kids, and that's the objective for us."
Thirty-eight local La Verne residents responded to flyers and news articles
inviting them to help design Pioneer Park. They were given molding clay
and graph paper to create what is now considered a premier skate park. "This
is one of the better skate parks in the area," confirms David Nguyen
of La Mirada, who skates regularly at Pioneer Park.
Despite the parks popularity, there are some disgruntled skaters reacting
to its rules. "You have to wear pads and a helmet, and that kind of
sucks," says Adam Parker, a 14 year-old La Verne resident who spends
many weekdays at Pioneer Park. Helmets, elbow pads and kneepads are required
for a skater to be permitted to skate at Pioneer Park. Devin Harden, special
code enforcement officer, was hired specifically to monitor the skaters'
use of their safety equipment. Harden says he averages one ticket a month.
"If they don't have their equipment on, I'll warn them," explains
Harden "If I catch them not wearing it again, I base it on attitude.
If they give me an attitude about it, then I give them a ticket. The need
for protection is attributed to the potentially dangerous tricks performed.
While "grinding a rail," a skater could easily fall from the 3-foot
The average age of skaters ranges greatly from between 10 and 27 years
old, but the park is consumed primarily by junior high and high school-aged
boys, dressed in baggy pants and T-shirts, wearing skate brands such as
"Etnies," "Emerica," and "Yes." Despite the
age differences, there is respect among skaters.
Spending late afternoons at Pioneer Park perfecting a back-side 180
degree, Marc Lopez, 24, says that he comes to Pioneer Park after work as
a way to relieve stress. He says that he used to skate when he was young,
then quit, but started skating again when Pioneer Park opened. "Anybody
who skateboards is already a friend of another skater, throughout races
and cultures," explains Miller.
Fellow skaters will often cheer for one another when a particularly
difficult trick is performed. "I think the younger kids are awesome."
says Nguyen. "If one of them asks me how to do a trick, I'll gladly
Extreme or not, Pioneer Park is providing skaters with rails, bowls
and ramps. Crossing through age and time boundaries, skating, once the rogue
sport, has been embraced and legitimized through parks like Pioneer and
city councils like La Verne's.
Wilson soars out of the southern bowl at Pioneer Park.