Petition to add another skatepark in Palo Alto continues

Arohi Bhattacharya, Senior Staff Writer

Over 1,800 community members have signed a petition urging city council members to add another skatepark near Greer Park in Palo Alto. 

Palo Alto High School junior Sam Kaplinsky started the petition in hopes of getting 1,500 signatures or more. His main vision for the skatepark is for people who — like him — share a love for skateboarding, scootering and other activities for Palo Alto and nearby residents. 

Palo Alto High School sophomore Sam Kaplinsky drops in on a quarter pipe ramp, one of the basic tricks in beginning skateboarding. Adding another skatepark in Palo Alto would help Kaplinsky and others perform larger tricks more often. “Getting the park built would give a place for many people of all ages to come together and practice their sport in a safe place,” Kaplinsky said. Photo credit: Sam Kaplinsky

According to Kaplinsky, the proposed skatepark would be built next to the existing bowl in Greer Park. Kaplinsky said creating a new bowl with more casual obstacles would be the best option to keep both skateparks, in which one held more advanced activities and the other being tailored for beginners. 

Greer Park has been a historical landmark for skateboarders, with the tri-bowl skatepark implemented in 1991 being the first community skatepark on the Peninsula, according to the City of Palo Alto News Detail.

“Greer Park is a piece of skateboarding history in California, so it would be a top priority to preserve what is already there,” Kaplinsky said. 

If Kaplinsky receives approval for the park, it would be financed by the community through fundraising and grants. 

While Kaplinsky acknowledges the efforts that the city council has already given to the skatepark proposal, he is hoping for more details soon.

“Many of the details are still up in the air because there have been no meetings with the city council to discuss the park,” Kaplinsky said. “There have only been meetings that we have attended and spoken during public comment. We will continue to speak during public comment in city council meetings and parks and recreation meetings.”

Paly junior Katherine Thomsen also signed the petition and agreed with Kaplinsky, saying that it would be more convenient to have another skatepark that’s easily accessible for casual skaters like her.

“Having a park nearby that I could go to more frequently would be amazing, [as well as] for a lot of skaters here in Palo Alto,” Thomsen said. “I think another skatepark, one that promotes more diverse skating, would help build a real sick community of skaters here.”

Many adults are also in support of this student-run campaign. Josh Balogh, a skateboarding instructor who works with young students, said that a new skatepark would provide great opportunities for skateboarders.

Skateboarding allows for a combination of freedom, artistic, and athletic ability without the stress of physical exams, grades, coaches, teams, and referees,” Balogh said. “People need more options like this, especially during a long pandemic when everything is closed and socially distanced.”

Balogh has 25 years of personal experience with skateboarding. He signed the petition as well, saying that he feels that with the resources Palo Alto has, constructing a skatepark should easily be a part of the city council’s agenda. 

“Especially being in Silicon Valley, it’s time to upgrade and build a new park with current up-to-date features that can accommodate the demand of the population,” Balogh said. “Sunnyvale [where the most parks are] is close but cities are required to provide city resources and parks per population. Palo Alto is wealthy, has an abundance of land, and the population is there, same with the demand.”

Greg Tanaka, a Palo Alto City Council member running for re-election this year, has shown his support for the proposed skatepark. Kaplinsky said that Tanaka responded to his first comments made to the city council about the park and encouraged him to get the community’s input, prompting Kaplinsky to start the petition.

“One of the reasons I ran for city council is because I want to make sure that the voice of families is the dominant demographic,” Tanaka told The Paly Voice. “It just seemed like there was a need in the community that wasn’t being heard.” 

Tanaka’s campaign revolves around being family-oriented and getting youth involved in the community, which Tanaka thought another skatepark would contribute to, according to him. 

A skateboarder himself, Tanaka recognizes the lack of communication between the skateboarding community and the city council, which he sees as more oriented towards adult topics.

“A lot of our politics is dominated not for the youth-oriented things, but for other demographics,” Tanaka said. “And so to really be heard, you have to take certain steps to make that happen. That’s why I laid out the steps that it would take for him [Kaplinsky] to create a petition for the skatepark.”

According to Tanaka, the skatepark is currently in the beginning stages of development, as city council members are still learning about the recent discussion. With serious involvement from the public and his colleagues, Tanaka says the proposal could be approved in as quickly as six months.

Tanaka hopes that getting re-elected for city council will help him push more youth participation in school-and non-school-related activities in the future.

“I would love to see more students or families step forward to be just heard and addressed,” Tanaka said.

To learn more, visit the Palo Alto Community Skatepark website.