The future of a skate park in Malibu remains uncertain as community members attended a farewell party at Papa Jack’s.
By Megan Farmer / Special to The Malibu Times
Malibu residents gathered at Papa Jack’s Skate Park on Saturday for a bittersweet day of skating, socializing and reminiscing. Developer Steve Soboroff sponsored the six-hour event for Malibu community members and their families to enjoy music and food as the park’s lease comes to a close.
The future of a skate park in Malibu is still unknown with the official closing date of Papa Jack’s fast approaching on Oct. 31, as Soboroff prepares to build a Whole Foods store on the grounds. Although the city is looking into several possible locations for either a temporary or permanent solution to move the skate ramps, at this time there are no definite plans, Parks and Recreation Manager Amy Crittenden said.
City Manager Jim Thorsen confirmed with The Malibu Times that there are about a half-dozen sites still under consideration at this time as possible future locations for the skate park. These locations include parking lot 12 at Zuma Beach, the Boys & Girls Club at Malibu High School, Bluffs Park, and a two-acre parcel of land owned by Malibu La Paz Ranch, LLC that is adjacent to Papa Jack’s current location.
Thorsen said although there is no leading location at this time, none of the options have been eliminated. Thorsen recently met with Parks and Recreation Director Bob Stallings and members of the Department of Beaches and Harbors to further discuss the possibility of the Zuma lot. Although Thorsen could not say what, if any, progress was made, he did confirm that discussions will continue regarding the Zuma property.
A skate park ad-hoc committee has been formed to assist in exploring all options during this process.
With a looming deadline, Crittenden confirmed that an item has been added to the Oct. 10 City Council meeting to allow the city manager the ability to negotiate a contract with whomever represents the first available site in hopes of expediting the process of finding a location for the skate park.
“There are a lot of ‘what-ifs’ at this time, but the city has absolutely been actively seeking an alternative location for a skate park for several months now,” Crittenden said. “We are really hoping to find a solution soon so that we don’t have to put the skate ramps into storage.”
Malibu community members voiced sadness and frustration with the situation at hand. Colina Stephenson’s husband and two sons have been skating at Papa Jack’s several days a week for the past five years. “This is more than just a park, it’s our connection to the community,” Stephenson said. “We’ve met all of our friends at Papa Jack’s and it would be nice to see the city step up and find the funds to build something quickly, like they did with Legacy Park.”
Other Malibu residents expressed similar sentiments during Saturday’s festivities. “If there was a soccer field closing or a baseball field shutting down, there would be a call to arms in the community, it would be unheard of,” Tia Didden said. “Someone dropped the ball here and even though we’re now told that we are fighting red-tape, all of us are ready to jump in and help.”
Between practicing skating tricks and eating snow cones, the children skating at Papa Jack’s conveyed their own feelings of disappointment.
Blake Sewell-Howell has been skating at the park for the last nine years, since he was five-years old. When he heard the park was closing, he was devastated.
“I was almost in tears when I found out. I’ve met all my friends here, this is like a second home to me,” said Sewell-Howell, who spends upward of six hours a day practicing at the park.
Parks and Recreation Coordinator Raul Lizarraga managed Papa Jack’s for five years and met his wife at the skate park. He said the park is special to a great many community members. During the summer, the skate camp at Papa Jack averages about 15 youth a day, who are all now looking for alternative options for skating.
Lizarraga is hopeful about finding a new location in Malibu for a permanent skate park. “Our ultimate goal is to get a permanent location, a full skate park with a concrete bowl,” he said. “But right now we just need a place to move the ramps to so we don’t go too long without a place for these kids to skate. I hope we get more support. Steve Soboroff is donating some money and that’s a great start. We hope to get more people on board.”
Sherie Rose’s sons have been attending the skate camps at Papa Jack’s for more than five years and she has concerns about it closing. Rose said Malibu is full of surfers and skaters who go pro, and to close Papa Jack’s would take away a place for local youth to learn and grow. She said she is disappointed in the uncertain status of a future skate park in Malibu.
“We’re taking the chance away for our kids to improve their skills,” Rose said. “People move to beach communities for the surf and skate culture, this takes away that spirit.”