Skate park

Where to find your grind

Photo by Josh Indar

For a gathering of 40 boys, it’s almost eerily silent. An occasional grunt of frustration punctuates the sound of plastic wheels rolling and wood boards clacking against the white cement.

Beads of sweat roll off red foreheads in the afternoon sun. An almost palpable tension of concentration fills the air, and an unspoken order governs the boys’ actions. Each patiently waits his turn and finds his place in the organized chaos. The small, crowded terrain park somehow accommodates them all.

Still more sit on the sidelines, watching bare-chested kids attempt aerial tricks with nothing but skill between them and a serious case of road rash. Weaving in and out of each other, they glide over faded graffiti on the cement hills, pyramids and the empty swimming pool-like “bowl,” and grind on rails and ledges.The Humboldt Neighborhood Park, which officially opened on July 2, 1999, is better known as “the skate park” on the fringe of downtown. Skaters of all ages, banned from riding their boards downtown and on private property, have embraced the park as a place to call their own.

The park’s atmosphere is inviting. Snuggled in between a quiet neighborhood, an automotive shop and Little Chico Creek, a small grassy picnic area saddles up to a rusty red, sculpted metal perimeter fence. The fence, designed by Paradise artist Eddie Martinez Hood, features leafy, sinewy trees and the flowing creek and leads into the park with a wide, welcoming gate. The well-maintained grounds are landscaped with reedy bushes and tall, white birch trees.

“It’s usually the same crowd,” says park regular 17-year-old Kyle Zavattero, sitting on a curved cement bench along the side. “We gotta skate here or go outta town.”

The park is free to the public and opens every morning at 8 a.m. The park’s closing hours vary from 7- 9 p.m. throughout the year.

Park planners working with a small plot of land by skate park standards, still managed to make the Humboldt Neighborhood Park terrain varied enough to entertain both beginning and advanced skaters.

Youngsters come with their parents earlier in the day, and older, more experienced kids fill in after school. Having a safe place for boys and girls to hang out after school helps keep them out of trouble.

There are no girls skating at Humboldt Neighborhood Park this afternoon, but 21-year-old Erica Hutton, came by to bring her boyfriend Mike Frederiksen and his friends some water and watch them skate. Though she doesn’t skate at the park, she says there are some girls who do. “And the ones that do come are actually really good,” says Hutton.

Federiksen, 24, his blue T-shirt soaked with sweat, walks up for a drink of water. He comes to skate here often and is very familiar with the park’s design. Frederiksen wants the city to expand the park or build an additional one, but is glad that Chico has a skate park. “It better than nothing,” he says in between gulps of water.

He thinks the city should find a place for bikes riders, too. Frederiksen says bikers beat up the concrete and have a bad habit of running into people. There are rules requiring helmets and forbidding bikes in the park, but they are not enforced since the park remains unsupervised.

Photo by Josh Indar

City officials, though, did install a 24-hour security camera and increase the height of fences around the site in 2003. The city has also added much needed restroom facilities at the park.

Investing in Humboldt Neighborhood Park benefits local skaters and the community. Skaters, who tend to police themselves well, stay on the park grounds and off private property.

“There’s a lot of skaters in this town,” Hutton points out as kids skate behind her. “Instead of people doing bad things, they’re out here exercising.”