It was just another day in the concrete jungle as skateboarders swooped in and out of sculpted canyons, did crooked grinds, fakies, and flipped 360 turns mid-air at the Placerville Skate Park.
Located just inside the fairgrounds, the park, which is also known as Joe’s Skate Park, presents challenges to any skateboarder from beginner to expert.
On the morning of June 27, 11-year-old Logan Rogers was there practicing his “air out of bowls” and “axle stall.” Nearby was veteran Isaac Gomez, 23, of Placerville, who was flying “over the box” with friends.
On the brink of closing
A popular venue with the skating crowd, the park was in danger of closing permanently a few years ago but got a second chance largely because of the efforts of Kelley Rogers, 40, of Pollock Pines, and other skateboarders.
Originally built in 2003 by El Dorado County, “what it lacked was a community foundation to support it,” said Rogers. “It’s like putting in a garden and not watering it. People started just hanging out here, but not to skate.”
In 2008, the Board of Supervisors closed the skatepark after a series of problems that ended in a violent incident.
The park might have remained closed except for the efforts of those in the skateboard community who came together to save it. Kelley said he and fellow skateboarder Sinjin Savage, 21, began attending skate park meetings where they met Carol Martin who, at the time, was with the El Dorado County Youth Commission. She helped them create a platform to launch their ideas. Kelley said they eventually put together a plan to get the park re-opened and have since kept the place clean and trouble-free.
“We had a ‘Lord of the Flies’ mentality here,” he said. “You can’t let kids go loose. They need guidance. (But) we stood our ground, kept the park clean and kicked out the riffraff.”
That approach seems to have worked because the skate park is now bone clean of trash and graffiti with the only discards being the “graveyard” of broken skateboards that adorn the fence surrounding the park.
Keeping an eye on things is Rogers who owns Hangtown Skate Shop, which is adjacent to the skate park. “I’m not paid to run the park and I’m not in charge of it,” he said, “but I’m the gatekeeper. I oversee it with the crew,” which he said includes 20 to 30 skateboarders.
“The rules are that everyone abide by the spirit of the law. We keep drugs, alcohol and bad behavior out of the park. But these dudes don’t bad vibe anybody. We were close to closing and now we’re thriving. Now people say ‘there’s something rad going on in Placerville.’ It gives people a sense of community.”
Rogers said his shop doubles as a clubhouse as well as a place for skateboarders to get their gear. He loans and sells skateboards as well as shoes, clothes, hats, drinks and snacks. Business must be good because the average life of a board is only two to three weeks, which is why the “graveyard” exists and is expanding.
Talking with skateboarders gives one a sense that they have an ethos of their own that is on display in the design of the park. Every part of it poses different challenges and levels of risk to the skater. In return, skaters respond with their own bravado and individual bag of tricks.
“They are athletes and good at what they do,” said Rogers, as he watched them skim the bowls.
Savage said he’s been skating since he was 13. “It’s different from other sports. It’s more of an individual sport where you self-motivate. There’s no coach and you don’t have someone else telling you what to do and how to do it.”
Frankie Hildebrand, 17, agreed, saying he has been skating since he was 10. “I like the individuality of the sport,” he said. “This is creative and you can express yourself, which is cool. And there’s something about it. It’s a lifestyle. How you dress, your friends, what you do. Attitude is a big part of it. Positivity. Mind over matter. It teaches you pain tolerance. Falling is part of skating and you get over it. I’m very passionate about skating but lots of teens don’t have that. That sense of freedom because you can do it anywhere. Skateboarders are free spirits.”
Rogers said on average 20 to 30 people use the skatepark every day from 8 a.m. to dark, including his own children and himself.
Looking back on how far they have come, Rogers said that for the first time ever, they were open during the county fair this year. “We did it because we have a good relationship with them.”
And in October, they will hold their third “Hangtown Massacre Contest” which includes prizes, food, music and a celebration of skateboarding. Last year the successful event drew 90-plus skaters and over 300 spectators.
Rogers says that the motto of skateboarding is to “stay gold” which is from a poem by Robert Frost called, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”
“Any skateboarder does it with their heart and soul,” he said. “I have friends in their 50s who are still skateboarding. It keeps you young and in shape, a foundation of youth. When people get older they lose their innocence. But to stay gold means to stay young at heart and positive.”
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.