Ten years ago, Jason Lesh, Jason Campbell and Peter Bonning returned to an idea they’d had with other community members—thinking about what it would take to get a concrete skate park built in Carpinteria. Many other small communities across the nation have them, and the positive impact for youth is hard to overstate. The group formed a 501c3 nonprofit, the Carpinteria Skate Foundation, and began working with the city of Carpinteria. They are now in the final approach to realizing their long-held vision. Peter Bonning took a few minutes to speak with CVN about the park.
CVN: A core group of Carpinteria skaters came up with the concept of a town skate park, right? When did the idea first come to you, and who were the initial crew?
Bonning: This story really starts with the temporary park that was built in the late 90s. I was attending Carp High, helped build the park, and was friends with the kids whose parents advocated for the park. I then went on to skate the temporary park until it was torn down. The hope was that the temp park would lead to a permanent, in-ground facility. Fast forward to 2009 when Jason Lesh, Jason Campbell and myself were discussing the need for a multi-use, multi-generational recreational facility for Carp. We had witnessed the positive effects of the temporary park on the underserved 10- to 20-year-old population in Carp, and especially on the low-income kids.
Subsequently, we watched as those kids who had previously frequented the park and had been building self-esteem and positive character qualities, fell into bad habits and a lack of direction when the park closed. The three of us care deeply for this community and thought it time we re-engage the conversation about how we can live in solidarity with each other through positive self-expression and exercise.
We never claimed to have all the answers, but we figured a skate park could be a good foundation for a meeting place in Carp that would bring different generations together in an effort to foster understanding, exercise, fun and a revenue stream for the community that is less subject to the tourist season. So, we started asking around and the response was overwhelming.
CVN: Clearly, skating has played a big role in all of your lives—this park will be a legacy for you, a lasting contribution to the youth of the area. A few of you guys have become fathers since launching the campaign—but you’re going to be there skating it on opening day, right? Can you talk about the thoughts you guys have had about the impact of skating: its benefits for youth and how it is part of a surf/skate culture?
Bonning: It is truly amazing that just in my lifetime skating has gone from a fringe/outsiders’ pursuit to a multi-million-dollar global industry. Multiple generations of people skate now, and they do so because of the benefits. I grew up playing team sports, but I would always turn to skating and surfing in my free time as a balance. Skateboarding is a form of creative self-expression in which coaches, boundaries, rules and conformity need not apply (although they might with a skate team at Carp High).
This is a pursuit that is accessible to that group of people who may not have the means to pay-to-play. Skateboarding is hard and fun at the same time. Children learn valuable lessons about resilience, commitment, self-worth and camaraderie through skating. And they do so at their own pace, and without an adult telling them exactly how they must do it. Skating gives people a safe place to try, fail, and keep trying until they get it, without the fear of judgement or consequences.
Where else can you have fun while failing miserably? And it is exercise, fresh air, sunshine and smiles, alongside your parents, and neighbors and visitors from another town. People from other towns will come to skate and when they do, they will spend money in Carp. I don’t think I need to explain that one. Really, I could go on and on…
CVN: Finally, you’re waiting on electrical drawings and the next step is submitting plans to the Planning Department, right?
Bonning: Plans are almost in to the city and we are looking for money. We have about half of the construction budget in the bank now, and will be working to acquire the rest in the next eight to 10 months. Go check out our website for info and to donate: carpskatepark.org. The Carpinteria Skate Foundation sends a very special thank you to all of the people and businesses that have supported us over the last 10 years! Let’s get this park built and go skate!