Texas

Oak Cliff skateboarders will have their own space at Westmoreland Park

A group of six Oak Cliff teenagers gathered in an abandoned building off Interstate 35 after being kicked out of a high school parking lot last Friday night.

14-year-old Aaron Vargas and his friends struggled to find outdoor spots in Oak Cliff like the local high school and car parks, or the Bishop Arts District for skateboarding. There are no skateparks nearby.

Skateboarders in Dallas often have to drive 30-40 minutes to get to a good skate park. Their favorite spot, Alliance Skate Park, is about 20 minutes away in Grande Prairie.

“We always had to travel to other parts of the city,” Varga said. “These other skate parks are very similar to Arlington, Fort Worth, Irving or Frisco. I like their parks, but they are very far from where I live.”

The city plans to change that by building an 8,000 to 12,000-square-foot four-wheel-drive skate park at North Oak Cliff in Westmoreland Park, according to District 1 City Councilman Chad West. The approximately $800,000 park has yet to have a groundbreaking date set, and more community meetings are needed to finalize the project, West said.

“If we can protect the skate park, this will be the biggest investment in Westmoreland Park since it was built. From what I understand from the City, Oak Cliff will have a much better chance of being selected for the next skate park if we can raise private funds to match the city’s skate park funds, and I want to contribute to that community. ,” West said in a press release.

Currently, the city and supporting organizations such as Skateparks for Dallas, a non-profit organization that supports the expansion of skateparks, is raising $400,000 for the park. The Dallas Parks and Recreation Department will provide $400,000 in funding.

West and District 1 Parks and Rec board member JR Huerta hosted community meetings at Oak Cliff to gauge interest and what members of the sports community would like to see in the park.

“I’m not a figure skater,” Huerta said. “I don’t know anything about skaters, but I’m a sports guy. No matter what we do, if we involve our children in something extra, it will make them better. Whether it’s skateboarding, basketball, baseball, piano, whatever.”

Skateboarding is how these teens blow off steam, learn resilience and make new friends, say some parents of skateboarding kids. There are no skate parks in Oak Cliff, so it is much more difficult for these children to participate in active sports.

“Having a skate park here in Oak Cliff would make things easier,” Vargas said. “Maybe I can skateboard more.”

Right now, Dallas has one functioning skatepark in Lakeland Hills, and another one under construction at Bachman Lake. According to the Dallas Parks Department, the city needs 15 skateparks to meet the needs of the population.

Huerta said it is a priority for him to have the skate park close to public transportation and walking paths, making it accessible to the majority of the population.

“It should always be accessible,” Huerta said. “Not everyone will be able to get to the park and use it. Then let’s put it next to public transport.”

Westmoreland Park is within easy reach of several bus stops, a 10-minute walk from the nearest DART station, and at the end of the Five Mile Creek Trail.

Clinton Haley, founder of the nonprofit Skateparks for Dallas, has been advocating for skateparks in the city for about 10 years. He helped open a new skatepark in Garland and Bachman Lake. Now he believes that south Dallas needs the same skateparks as those in the suburbs.

“It will be a state-of-the-art public cast-in-place concrete skatepark, so the lines will be smooth,” Haley said. “No metal, hot metal in the summer and a nice smooth surface to do whatever the action sports community wants.”

Aaron Vargas, 14, tries to pull a stunt as Gavin Peoples, 16, watches on Friday, January 6, 2023, in the parking lot of an empty business in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas.(Juan Figueroa / staff photographer)

As Anthony Vargas usually takes his son Aaron and his friends to skateparks in the northern suburbs, he welcomes the new park.

“I tell everyone that the youth of Oak Cliff deserve the same perks as the youth of Frisco, Plano, and every other person north of Dallas,” Vargas said. “It will help these kids if they have a place where they can skate and they don’t get kicked out.”

Vicki Phelps faces the same problem when she tries to encourage her 9-year-old son Julian to take up skateboarding. Phelps and her family moved to New York for about a year, and when she returned to Texas, she realized that there were no skateparks within walking distance like in New York.

“There is nothing like what was in Brooklyn,” said Phelps. “The city in New York seems to support a lot more.

Phelps said the skateboarding community has done a lot for her son and she has been able to see his confidence grow.

“I love that skateboarding is fun, although you can get hurt a lot,” said her son Julian. “It helps you fight back and I really like that.”

North Oak Cliff Skatepark is still looking for private and corporate sponsors and Chad West has set up a fundraising Facebook page that has raised about $6,000 so far.

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