Skate park protest pivots to celebration after Costa Mesa announces parks, playgrounds can reopen

 Costa Mesa has reopened its playgrounds including the city's Volcom skate park, shown above.
New guidelines issued Monday by the California Department of Public Health has allowed the city of Costa Mesa to reopen its playgrounds including the city’s Volcom Skate Park, shown above.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

After months of steering small children away from taped-off slides and discouraging trespassing at the city’s skate park, Costa Mesa officials announced on social media Tuesday that playgrounds and other city-operated outdoor facilities are now open to the public.

“Welcome news for Costa Mesa’s kids and families! The city of Costa Mesa will reopen its park playgrounds on Sept. 30,” reads a post on the city’s Facebook page, explaining that play spaces at city parks would reopen.

Officials explained in the post new guidelines released Monday by the California Department of Public Health regarding outdoor playgrounds and other outdoor recreational facilities made allowances for the resumption of such activities, with masks and social distancing for everyone over 2 years of age and other coronavirus precautions in place.

“The new guidance applies to outdoor playgrounds located in parks, campgrounds, and other publicly accessible locations,” it read.

But it took some online needling from residents for local officials to admit the city’s Volcom Skate Park — which has been at the center of a cat-and-mouse controversy involving trespassing skaters and the rangers who cited them — would also be reopened.

District officials said the return Tuesday to in-person classes went smoothly. But teachers still negotiating with NMUSD over a reopening plan are seeking an injunction that, if approved, could reclose the Newport Beach and Costa Mesa campuses.

The city would not allow staff to comment directly on the news in interviews Wednesday. But Mayor Katrina Foley and Council members Arlis Reynolds and Sandy Genis had by then already confirmed through their own social media posts or comments the skate park would be reopened.

 Costa Mesa reopened its playgrounds including the city's Volcom skate park.
Volcom Skate Park has been the center of a controversy involving trespassing skaters and the rangers who cited them.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“[The] Bark Park has been open; playgrounds and skate park will be open tomorrow with updated signage,” Reynolds clarified Tuesday in a comment on the city’s post when residents asked specifically about the 15,000-square-foot facility.

Reynolds, who, unlike Foley and Genis is not running for office in November, expounded on the topic Wednesday, saying the skate park was a “hugely important asset for our community and, just like with other parks, was painful to keep closed.”

On Wednesday, previously locked gates were open, and the park was being enjoyed by a handful of skateboarders.

Citizens in the Costa Mesa skating community had been organizing a “protest/skate sesh” at the previously shuttered skate park on Sunday at 1 p.m. to appeal for its reopening. Local skate mom Kori Schillereff said plans are now shifting into a celebration of the skateboarding community.

“I am so thankful that the skate park is opening,” Schillereff said. “Mostly I’m so proud of the kids and skaters for standing up for their rights. It has brought the community together even more.”

It is unclear whether Monday’s guidelines are truly what spurred the reopening of the skate park since such facilities were not referenced anywhere in the new regulations.

Costa Mesa reopened its playgrounds including TeWinkle Park, shown above.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Further, guidance issued by the state health department on July 29 pertaining to campgrounds, RV parks and outdoor recreation does specifically mention skate parks.

The document states such facilities could reopen so long as operators “monitor areas where people are likely to gather and ensure that physical distancing and other guidelines are followed.”

For the time being, Costa Mesa skateboarders like 26-year-old Jack Bunker say they are simply glad to finally be able to shred in peace.

“I’m pretty stoked to have it opened back up. It minimizes the chance of anything getting out of hand,” said Bunker, who’s helping organize Sunday’s celebration. “It’s cool we got our park back — let’s keep it mellow, let’s keep the peace and enjoy what we have.”

Orange County is living through some of the same issues affecting other parts of the country — police shootings and protest violence — and all of it caught on video.

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