Angry skaters prepare for a symbolic groundbreaking to demand action at City Hall

Supporters of Portland’s skate scene will take to the streets today to draw attention to the delay in building a planned skate park near the west end of the Steel Bridge.

The park, which was designed by Dao Construction and would occupy 30,000 feet on the west side of Naito Parkway, is part of a citywide plan of skate parks approved by the city council in 2005 and completed by Portland Parks & Recreation in 2008. The park adjoins the Steel Bridge is considered the “crown jewel” of Portland’s skate parks due to its central, accessible location near Old Town and public transportation.

Ryan Hashagen, longtime skate park advocate and owner of Portland Pedals, says Steel Bridge’s skate park plan is essential because there’s nothing else like it in Portland, despite the area’s growing popularity of action sports. Six of the other sites proposed in the 2008 Parks & Recreation plan have been built, but the vacant lot awaiting the crown jewel remains vacant.

“Burnside [Skate Park] is historical. But it’s not accessible to a wide range of skaters or backgrounds, or BMXers or scooters for that matter,” says Hashagen. “Portland is often considered one of the best skateboarding and skater spots in the world. And yet we don’t have a skate park that really lives up to that reputation and welcomes everyone.”

A design was developed with guidance from the city in 2011 and even won five regional and national landscape design awards that year. But due to policy and budget deficits at Portland Parks and the project’s $8 million price tag, nothing happened. Another major obstacle was the ramp connecting the southbound Naito Parkway to the steel bridge. However, this ramp was decommissioned as part of the City Council’s Central City in Motion plan, which passed in November 2018.

As long as the ramp was an obstacle, Hashagen says, the generation that started building the park began to move on and lose interest.

“There was simply a knowledge gap,” says Hashagen. “[The younger generation] was unaware of the 2005 plan, so we’re trying to bring this City Council-approved vision back to life.”

That’s why Portland skaters and skate park advocates will mobilize for a “symbolic groundbreaking” tonight at 6:30 p.m. Prior to this, a procession of skaters will roll through town from the Salmon Street Fountain and land at the skate park’s planned location at Northwest 1st Avenue and Flanders Streets for the site’s groundbreaking and ceremonial concrete bag pour.

With the driveway no longer an obstacle, proponents are calling for a solid commitment from City Hall to building the park. Hashagen says one of the next deliverables they expect from the city is an implementation plan and a final price for the project.

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