Pledge Puts Skate Park On Fast Track

By Nao Braverman
A generous pledge from the Ojai Civic Association has accelerated Skate Ojai’s fund-raising efforts almost two-thirds of the way to a new permanent park.
“The project fits ideally with the purpose of our organization which is to assist in the general welfare and recreation of the citizens of the Ojai Valley,” said Jack Fay, a board member of the association. “The fact that the skate board park provides recreation for our youth was a plus.”
On Jan. 29, the Ojai Civics Association pledged a substantial $100,000 to Skate Ojai, but not without some terms and conditions. The funds are to go specifically to the skate park and the skate park only, and will not become available until all plans, leases, contracts and permits are completed and obtained. The total cost also has to be covered in order for Skate Ojai to collect their $100,000 check, according the letter of agreement from the Civic Association.
In essence, board members want to be sure they know that the skate park will be there if they are going to support it. The letter also adds, “It is the hope of the board of directors that the city of Ojai keeps a capable adult present and in control of the facility whenever it is in use” and that perhaps the city will also enforce the skate board ordinance.
At this time Skate Ojai has no specific plans related to getting the park supervised, said Wendy Hilgers, a member of Skate Ojai. But that could change at a later date.
For more than 10 years, Ojai’s skaters have awaited the construction of a permanent park to replace the dilapidated wooden ramps next to Chaparral High School that were meant to be only temporary. But after years of delay, skate park supporters are finally seeing their hopes come to fruition.
The nonprofit organization, Skate Ojai, that was formed specifically to gather funds for building a permanent skate park, began collecting donations at the end of November 2007.
The $100,000 donation from the Ojai Civic Association brought the total skate park fund to $223,000, with $100,000 already in the pot from the city, and a collective $23,000 from individual donations, said Hilgers, who was a member of the original Skate Park Task Force and very active member of Skate Ojai.
Hilgers, like many other local participants in the skate park fund-raising effort, is the parent of a longtime skateboarder. But with her children grown, it is her 21-year-old grandson who motivated her to get involved.
“I used to drive him all over the place so he could skate in other parks in the county,” she said. “The current park is deteriorated but all those kids are using it to its maximum.”
At a City Council meeting in November 2007, skate park task force members agreed to set a June 30 target date to raise the $350,000 needed to build a basic state-of-the-art, permanent, in-ground cement skate park. Additional funds for bathrooms and other frills could be raised later, they decided. With more than half the money raised in just slightly more than two months, the nearly four months remaining until target date should give the organization more than enough time to reach their total, said Hilgers.
“We’re in the very beginning stages, we’re just doing research,” she said. “But we are on a good time schedule.”
Skate Ojai is getting ready to draft plans for a 10,000-square-foot park at the existing location on Ojai Avenue next to Chaparral Auditorium.
Council members have also mentioned at previous city meetings that before recent repairs, the dilapidated temporary park was beginning to form a peculiar sort of eyesore. The permanent park, however, should be an attractive addition to that central location, said Hilgers.
A Ventura radio station, Live 105.5-FM, has offered to hold the next fund-raising event with Skate Ojai, but the date and details are still unconfirmed, Hilgers said.

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