For Ciara Torres, a longtime resident of McKinleyville, helping get a skatepark built in her hometown holds special meaning, because she is helping realize a dream of her late grandmother, who started fundraising for the skatepark more than two decades ago.
“It all started 23 years ago, with my grandmother wanting to put a skatepark in because my brother and cousins got in trouble for skateboarding in the Safeway parking lot, and my grandma was like, ‘Well, where are they supposed to skate?’” Torres told the Outpost in a recent interview. “Anytime something made her mad, she did something about it.”
Well, it may have taken a little bit longer than hoped, but the skatepark (or, at least, part of it) has finally been built next to Pierson Park and McKinleyville skaters now have some smooth concrete to legally skate on.
Torres’ grandma, Pat Hassen, who passed away in 2011, helped start the McKinleyville Skatepark Committee in 2000 and began organizing and raising money for the park. Hassen stepped away from the efforts when her husband got sick in 2009, and Charlie Caldwell took over and the park became a project of the Humboldt Skate Collective.
Torres started getting involved in the project a couple of years ago, after moving back to McKinleyville. Like many Humboldt-raised people, Torres left to pursue school and work and had lived away from Humboldt for a while, but returned during COVID when she was given the option to work remotely. She knew right away that she wanted to spend her free time helping the efforts toward building the skatepark that the community had been waiting on for so many years. “I came back here and this was the first thing I wanted to do, was get this skatepark up and running,” Torres said.
When she started attending the Humboldt Skate Collective meetings, Torres joined forces with Martin Fusek, a local skater and Humboldt Skatepark Collective board member, who was also very passionate about the McKinleyville Skatepark project. Like Torres, Fusek grew up in McKinleyville and remembers how long the skatepark efforts had been in the works. Like Torres’ brother and cousins, as a teen Fusek would also get busted by the police for skating in parking lots and other places it wasn’t permitted. He and his friends would sometimes ride their bikes or hitchhike all the way to Arcata just to use the skatepark there.
“Having grown up here and not having any place to skate, it pushed us into places where we wouldn’t be seen and we’d do weird, bad shit,” Fusek told the Outpost in front of the McKinleyville skatepark. “If we had a place like this to hang out, we would have spent our whole day here.”
In the earlier days of the planning, Fusek said he would attend meetings, but eventually went off to do school and other life things. Fusek recently started getting involved again and he, Torres and other folks started kicking the process into high gear over the last couple of years.
Though the McKinleyville skatepark was a big focus of the collective, Fusek said, there are also a lot of other projects and areas that the collective needed to focus on, and Fusek and Torres felt like this was part of why the McKinleyville skatepark was taking so long.
“The only way we were able to get this going was to sort of branch off from the collective, and start having our own more focused meetings, because the Humboldt Skate collective is working on skate parks all throughout the county,” Fusek said.
With the help of Caldwell, the team was able to secure the county’s approval of the project and raise enough money to build a portion of the park. Throughout the years, and from a combination of merch sales, private donations and grants, the collective had accrued more than $120,000 for the project and started working with Richard Conklin of
Evergreen Skateparks Primary Concrete to design the park. By this point, the original skatepark plans were pretty outdated, Fusek said, so they asked the planner to make them more modern and the end result was a 20,000 square foot park with two bowls, multiple ledges, stairs, rails and other fun skatepark features.
The full project was estimated to cost around $1 million, which was a lot more money than the collective had accrued. But the builder said that the money the collective did have would be enough to complete a small section of the park, so the collective decided to roll out the park in phases.
Construction of phase 1, which is 4,000 square feet of concrete, began in early August and was completed on Aug. 30. Fusek said that the project impressively was completed right on time and right on budget. Though they were initially going to wait a while longer to open the park to the public, they decided that the wait had been long enough and the first section of the park is now open and skaters have already been taking full advantage of the new spot.
Fusek and Torres said that the collective decided to build a part of the park sooner, rather than waiting until the entire build could be funded, not only so that skaters would have a place to start using immediately, but also to help people see that the project is making progress and that the money that has already been raised is going to good use.
“It helps let the community know that we’re doing something with the money that we’ve spent the last 20 years raising,” Torres said.
Now to celebrate the completion of the first phase of the McKinleyville Skatepark, the group is holding a grand opening celebration on Saturday, Oct. 7, featuring skate contests, live music, food, beer and a raffle that will include cool prizes like skateboards and more. All proceeds from the event will go toward the completion of the remainder of the skatepark.
With a long way to go for reaching the $1 million it will take to complete the entire project, Torres and Fusek couldn’t say exactly when the rest of the park will be built. But the collective has applied for another large state grant and, if it is awarded, Fusek said, construction on the rest of the park could start as soon as next summer.
In the meantime, the smaller version of the park is there for the skatin’ and people of all ages have already been taking advantage of the new spot. The park is very accessible, with no fence and bright lighting that allows it to be used in the dark. Originally, the MSCD wanted to build a fence, but Fusek and Torres said they wanted to keep the park more open and inviting. There are no official rules posted for the park yet, but Fusek and Torres said that they plan to install signs with rules on safety and proper skatepark etiquette. The park also happens to be right next to the Fire Department and across the street from a Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office station, which Fusek says will help if there are any injuries at the park, and will help deter crime like drugs or graffiti.
With only two other outdoor skateparks in Humboldt, the Arcata Skate Park and the Eureka Skate Park, Fusek said that opening the park in McKinleyville is a big deal for skaters that live in the area to finally have a closer option and he’s excited to see that people are already using it and hopes that people will come out to the grand opening to celebrate this long-awaited project.
“So many people here were little kids when we started raising money for it and now it’s finally here,” Fusek said.