NorCal Concrete Skateparks

Seventeen parks in five days. Is that possible? by Kevin Marks

For as vast and unpopulated as Northern California is, it has a stunningly high number of skateparks of the concrete variety. Seventeen, by our best estimates. Since your tax dollars built and maintain them, we thought it appropriate to publish directions to them, plus a brief summary of what you’ll find there.

So we asked Kevin Marks, who claims to love to drive, to go check out all seventeen and make sure they’re still there. They were, and he saw them all except Tahoe, which was under snow. He even saw a bunch more along the way, but because they weren’t technically in Northern California, we instructed him to just keep driving.

On top of all that, we only gave him five days to complete the mission, which he did with flying colors. On day five, when he came in to drop off his film, Kevin looked tired and smelled a little, but he was wearing the euphoric smile of someone who’d seen the promised land … and was ready for the hot tub.–TWS

From the journal of Kevin Marks:

Wednesday, March, 10, 1999–11:30 a.m.

An e-mail comes in from TransWorld about a possible story idea on NorCal concrete parks. It sounds interesting, so I call into the office. In turns out they need someone to photograph and document all the concrete parks in NorCal by Monday, March 15. What? In five days? That’s not possible, is it?

Originally, their list contained only eight parks, but after brainstorming with them for a few minutes, it has grown to seventeen. By 2:00 p.m. the details are ironed out, and at 4:00 p.m. I’m packed, have the van fueled, and am en route to the TWS offices. By 6:00 p.m. I’m northbound on Interstate 5, cruising along. So much for trying to smell the roses–this trip will be a whirlwind.

Thursday, March 11

I’ve driven through the night, stopping only to sleep on the side of the road for a few hours. The sun is shining, and I have the Modesto park all to myself. Imagine that!

Modesto Skatepark–8:00 a.m.

The Modesto park consists of three main bowl elements, each five feet deep and suffering from the dreaded “roll-out lip” and imperfect transitions. It also has a three- and four-sided pyramid (both are too steep), a spined bowl with back-to-back steel coping, and a snakerun that starts in a round bowl and empties into a smaller bowl marred by fluctuating transitions. Several transfers are possible from the snake run to either of the other two bowls. Ledges of varying heights that make up the perimeter of the park are the best-built obstacles in the park.

General info: Free, no pads required, open dawn to dusk.

Directions: From Highway 99, exit Standiford/Beckwith Road and head east. Standiford turns into Sylvan without warning. Continue east for two or three miles. The skatepark is at the corner of Forest Glenn Drive and Sylcan in Beyer Park.

Rating: 5/10. Don’t travel more than 50 miles to skate this park.

Tuolumne County Skatepark, Sonora–10:20 a.m.

Though riddled with design flaws, the park has enough variety to make it really fun. The starting bank provides plenty of speed to hit any obstacle. Two bowls connected by a snakerun are the centerpiece of the park, and although the transitions are kinked and wavy, it does have steel coping in some sections. The park also houses a low-intensity funbox, a kinky spine, a kinky vert wall corner, and a high-intensity funbox.

General info: Free, no pads required, open dawn to dusk.

Directions: From Highway 99, take Highway 120 through Oakdale into Sonora. To avoid the Sonora business loop, turn left at Washington and go into town. Turn into Kragen Auto Parts’ parking lot, drive through, turn right, and go up the hill. The next light is Greenley, turn left. Continue on until you can turn left into the library parking lot. Do so. The park is on your right.

Rating: 6/10. Worth the dve if you’re within 100 miles.

Derby Skatepark, Santa Cruz–4:00 p.m.

Built in the 1970s, Derby is the oldest park I visited. Originally the city only built the snakerun but added roll-out decks in the late 80s. The park consists of a tight snakerun that empties into a mellow basin. Recently, a path was added near the basin, and now a healthy transfer is possible.

General info: Free, no pads required, open dawn to dusk.

Directions: Take Highway 1 into Santa Cruz–it turns into Mission Street. Make a left on Swift, a right on Modesto Avenue, another right on San Jose Avenue, then a left on Woodland Way. Park near the intersection of Auburn and Woodland Way. Look for the walkway that leads to Derby Park.

Rating: 3/10. Sure, it’s a legendary park, and for nostalgia’s sake you should ride it at least once–but don’t go too far out of your way. Hit it the next time you visit Santa Cruz.

Greer Skatepark, Palo Alto–5:15 p.m.

Three bowls combine into one, making for thousands of possible lines. The concrete is super smooth, so watch out for slick spots because this park is highly graffitied. There’s a volcano in the middle with a grindable lip. With the right line, huge fly-outs are possible–Steve Caballero can clear two trash cans stacked on top of one another.

General info: Free, no pads required, open dawn to dusk.

Directions: From the 101, exit Oregon Expressway west. Make your first left and wind around to the frontage road. A mile further, you’ll see the park on your right near the soccer fields.

Rating: 5/10. It’s really easy to get to off the 101, so stop by if you’re going that way.

Friday, March, 12 –Thursday night I drove into San Francisco and met up with Scott Bourne. We rose at 5:00 a.m. and arrived at our first destination just in time for dawn patrol.

Davis Skatepark–6:30 a.m.

The Davis park is small and tightly packed. A tiny snakerun travels the length of the park, connecting two bowls. A mellow roll-in speeds you to a funbox with tight transitions–it may be the only funbox on Earth where you can slappy the handrail.

General info: Free, full pads required, only open select hours.

Directions: Take Interstate 80 to Highway 113 west, exit Covell Street and head north. After a few lights, the park will be on your right.

Rating: 2/10. Don’t bother going unless you’re stuck in Davis and bored out of your mind.

Sacramento Skatepark–7:40 a.m.

This park isn’t much to speak of at the moment, but its size promises enormous potential. There are currently three cement blobs, several ramps you can move around, and assorted boxes, curbs, and rails. Junk skating at its finest.

General Info: Free, no pads required, open dawn to dusk.

Directions: From San Francisco take Interstate 80 and follow the business loop signs. Exit Highway 160 and head north. Turn right on R Street. The park is on R between 18th and 19th streets.

Rating: 3/10. At the moment it’s not worth going very far out of your way, but stop by and monitor their progress.

Yuba City Skatepark–9:30 a.m.

Yuba City offers some unique terrain. Blocks are the first thing to greet you as you roll into the park. There is also a seven-foot spine, a massive banked taco with coping, a three-bowled combination pool, a three-foot-tall quarterpipe, and a funbox. The layout could be better, but the obstacles are built reasonably well.

General Info: Free, no pads required, open dawn to dusk.

Directions: Head north on Highway 99 into Yuba City. Go east onto Highway 20, then make a right onto Grey Avenue. Turn right into San Brannan Park. The skatepark is by the tennis courts.

Rating: 5/10. Well worth the drive from Sacramento.

Redding Skatepark–1:15 p.m.

The park features three bowls–small, medium, and large–connected by snakeruns. There’s a kink to vert quarterpipe connected to a pyramid with a rail. Redding boasts a twenty-foot-long flat rail, and banks surround the park. The coping on the two main bowls is more of a hindrance than a help. Redding’s park is very similar to Santa Rosa, but the addition of the banks around the perimeter allow speed to be maintained.

General Info: Free, unsupervised, no pads required, open dawn to dusk.

Directions: From Interstate 5 take Highway 299 west. Turn right on Pine, make a quick left on Eureka Way, and a quick right on Market. Go down the hill and over the Sacramento River. Turn left at the next light, then another left on Quartz Hill Road. The skatepark is in Caldwell Park.

Rating: 7/10. This park is a must. Well worth the drive from San Francisco. Combine it with a trip to Yuba, and it’s a whole day of great skating.

Saturday, March, 13 –Scott and I slept near Arcata and rose around 4:00 a.m. to drive into town. I got directions at a grocery store, and we were at the skatepark just in time for dawn patrol. A cop had followed me up to the gate. Scott and I got out, and I said, “Good morning, officer. What time does the park open?”

Arcata Skatepark–6:00 a.m.

Arcata’s park is set up in a triangle with tight, grindable quarterpipes wrapping around its corners. Inside there’s a seven-foot bowl with coping on only half of it, a three-sided pyramid, and a snakerun. Most of the transitions are way too tight and far from perfect.

General info: Free, unsupervised, full pads required, open from dawn to dusk.

Directions: Exit Sunset from Highway 101 and head west. The park is on your right, a stone’s throw from 101.

Rating: 3/10. Due to the full-pads rule and the terrible transitions, don’t bother unless you’re already in the vicinity of Arcata.

Santa Rosa Skatepark–1:00 p.m.

Santa Rosa’s park consists of three bowls connected by snakeruns–which make for many hips and lines. There’s also a mellow, three-sided pyramid and long, curvy eight-inch curb. The city of Santa Rosa recently expanded the perimeter of their park by eight feet in every direction, and it makes a grand difference. They also added a flatbar in their recent rennovations.

General info: Free, helmets required–bring your helmet, the police might do a check–unsupervised, open dawn to dusk.

Directions: From Highway 101 take the 116 west, and turn right at Fulton Road. The park is about two miles down on your left, across from a high school.

Rating: 7/10. It’s definitely worth the drive from nearly anywhere in California.

Petaluma Skatepark–2:30 p.m.

Petaluma consists of a flatbar of death, a funbox with a ledge, a twinkie, a volcano with a steep rail, and two bowls. One of the bowls forms a hip with the rest of the course, so transfers are a regular occurrence. The whole area is enclosed in a tight transition. General info: Free, unsupervised, no pads required, open dawn to dusk.

Directions: From Highway 101 exit Washington Street and head west. Turn left at the light at the entrance to the sports complex.

Rating: 4/10. Fun, but not much flow.

Napa Skatepark–3:30 p.m.

Napa’s park is very small, featuring a spine, a donut, a twinkie, a pyramid, a bank, and a snakerun. The pyramid only acts as a starting point, because just one side has room to land.

General info: Free, unsupervised, no pads required, open dawn to dusk.

Directions: Take Highway 29, and head north on Soscol. The park is near the movie theater between Clinton and Pearl.

Rating: 3/10. Napa can be fun, but it takes some time to get used to.

Benecia Skatepark–4:15 p.m.

Benecia’s park is most conducive to skating hips, but prepare yourself for tight transitions set up in a small area. The park is low-key and was one of the earliest Bay Area sd by snakeruns. There’s a kink to vert quarterpipe connected to a pyramid with a rail. Redding boasts a twenty-foot-long flat rail, and banks surround the park. The coping on the two main bowls is more of a hindrance than a help. Redding’s park is very similar to Santa Rosa, but the addition of the banks around the perimeter allow speed to be maintained.

General Info: Free, unsupervised, no pads required, open dawn to dusk.

Directions: From Interstate 5 take Highway 299 west. Turn right on Pine, make a quick left on Eureka Way, and a quick right on Market. Go down the hill and over the Sacramento River. Turn left at the next light, then another left on Quartz Hill Road. The skatepark is in Caldwell Park.

Rating: 7/10. This park is a must. Well worth the drive from San Francisco. Combine it with a trip to Yuba, and it’s a whole day of great skating.

Saturday, March, 13 –Scott and I slept near Arcata and rose around 4:00 a.m. to drive into town. I got directions at a grocery store, and we were at the skatepark just in time for dawn patrol. A cop had followed me up to the gate. Scott and I got out, and I said, “Good morning, officer. What time does the park open?”

Arcata Skatepark–6:00 a.m.

Arcata’s park is set up in a triangle with tight, grindable quarterpipes wrapping around its corners. Inside there’s a seven-foot bowl with coping on only half of it, a three-sided pyramid, and a snakerun. Most of the transitions are way too tight and far from perfect.

General info: Free, unsupervised, full pads required, open from dawn to dusk.

Directions: Exit Sunset from Highway 101 and head west. The park is on your right, a stone’s throw from 101.

Rating: 3/10. Due to the full-pads rule and the terrible transitions, don’t bother unless you’re already in the vicinity of Arcata.

Santa Rosa Skatepark–1:00 p.m.

Santa Rosa’s park consists of three bowls connected by snakeruns–which make for many hips and lines. There’s also a mellow, three-sided pyramid and long, curvy eight-inch curb. The city of Santa Rosa recently expanded the perimeter of their park by eight feet in every direction, and it makes a grand difference. They also added a flatbar in their recent rennovations.

General info: Free, helmets required–bring your helmet, the police might do a check–unsupervised, open dawn to dusk.

Directions: From Highway 101 take the 116 west, and turn right at Fulton Road. The park is about two miles down on your left, across from a high school.

Rating: 7/10. It’s definitely worth the drive from nearly anywhere in California.

Petaluma Skatepark–2:30 p.m.

Petaluma consists of a flatbar of death, a funbox with a ledge, a twinkie, a volcano with a steep rail, and two bowls. One of the bowls forms a hip with the rest of the course, so transfers are a regular occurrence. The whole area is enclosed in a tight transition. General info: Free, unsupervised, no pads required, open dawn to dusk.

Directions: From Highway 101 exit Washington Street and head west. Turn left at the light at the entrance to the sports complex.

Rating: 4/10. Fun, but not much flow.

Napa Skatepark–3:30 p.m.

Napa’s park is very small, featuring a spine, a donut, a twinkie, a pyramid, a bank, and a snakerun. The pyramid only acts as a starting point, because just one side has room to land.

General info: Free, unsupervised, no pads required, open dawn to dusk.

Directions: Take Highway 29, and head north on Soscol. The park is near the movie theater between Clinton and Pearl.

Rating: 3/10. Napa can be fun, but it takes some time to get used to.

Benecia Skatepark–4:15 p.m.

Benecia’s park is most conducive to skating hips, but prepare yourself for tight transitions set up in a small area. The park is low-key and was one of the earliest Bay Area skateparks, paving the way for better future projects.

General info: Free, unsupervised, no pads required, open dawn to dusk.

Directions: Take Interstate 80 to 780, and exit Military west. Turn right at Taco Bell and park at Walgreen’s.

Rating: 3/10. Fun if you’re in the area.

San Leandro Skatepark–5:15 p.m.

San Leandro has three-quarters of a bowl and a small street course. Design flaws run rampant from the tiny steel coping to the ridiculous banks on the tiny funbox.

General info: Free, full pads required, supervised, only open select hours.

Directions: From Interstate 880 exit Davis Street and head east. Turn right at Thrasher Park, and turn left into the parking lot. If you pass the BART station, you’ve gone too far.

Rating: 2/10. Don’t bother going unless you live in Davis.

South Lake Tahoe Skatepark–snowed in.

South Lake Tahoe’s park was under snow at the time of this story, so I’m recalling from my last visit there.

Every obstacle in the park is under four feet tall. Features include a unique four-sided pyramid, a long kinked rail down the funbox, dual bowls, and a combination of banks. The obstacles are made of concrete, but the flat area is asphalt. It’s the most beautiful setting for a skatepark–up in the woods near Lake Tahoe.

General info: Free, unsupervised, no pads required.

Directions: From Sacramento take Highway 50 east into South Lake Tahoe. It’s in Bijou Park.

Rating: 6/10. Keeping in mind that it’s a low-impact design, I recommend it highly.

Sunday, March, 14 –After sleeping a few hours, I started driving toward Hanford at about 4:00 a.m.

Hanford Public Skatepark–7:00 a.m.
Imagine a 9,000-square-foot reservoir with lovely transitions. You’ve just imagined Hanford. The designers and builders get a pat on the back for their efforts. The park incorporates ledges, a monstrous pyramid, two boxes, hips, a bank to wall, and a twinkie. It also has two rails–one slanted down a drop, and one flat.

General info: Free, unsupervised, no pads required, open dawn to dusk.

Directions: Take Highway 198 into Hanford, exit at 11th Street, and head north. Turn right on Lacey, then left on Kaweah Street. The park’s behind the fire station and public swimming pool at 415 Ford Street.

Rating: 6/10. It’s loads of fun with lots of lines and the capability to go really fast–a must in my book.

Sunday Afternoon

After dropping my film off, I bolted to the hot tub for a much-needed soak. That night, I slept soundly, dreaming of better skateparks to come.

Disclaimer: I feel that all municipalities should provide skateparks for their youth that are free, unsupervised, and open from dawn to dusk. At times this bias is reflected in my ratings. I attempted to remain objective and judge based on the following criteria: variety of obstacles, number of design flaws, overall flow and maneuverability, functionality of the obstacles, and participant capacity. If a park was rated three of a possible ten, depending on your ability level, there’s a high probability that you’ll have a good time there. It simply boils down to personal preference, so get out there and experience them for yourself.–Kevin Marks

ea skateparks, paving the way for better future projects.

General info: Free, unsupervised, no pads required, open dawn to dusk.

Directions: Take Interstate 80 to 780, and exit Military west. Turn right at Taco Bell and park at Walgreen’s.

Rating: 3/10. Fun if you’re in the area.

San Leandro Skatepark–5:15 p.m.

San Leandro has three-quarters of a bowl and a small street course. Design flaws run rampant from the tiny steel coping to the ridiculous banks on the tiny funbox.

General info: Free, full pads required, supervised, only open select hours.

Directions: From Interstate 880 exit Davis Street and head east. Turn right at Thrasher Park, and turn left into the parking lot. If you pass the BART station, you’ve gone too far.

Rating: 2/10. Don’t bother going unless you live in Davis.

Souuth Lake Tahoe Skatepark–snowed in.

South Lake Tahoe’s park was under snow at the time of this story, so I’m recalling from my last visit there.

Every obstacle in the park is under four feet tall. Features include a unique four-sided pyramid, a long kinked rail down the funbox, dual bowls, and a combination of banks. The obstacles are made of concrete, but the flat area is asphalt. It’s the most beautiful setting for a skatepark–up in the woods near Lake Tahoe.

General info: Free, unsupervised, no pads required.

Directions: From Sacramento take Highway 50 east into South Lake Tahoe. It’s in Bijou Park.

Rating: 6/10. Keeping in mind that it’s a low-impact design, I recommend it highly.

Sunday, March, 14 –After sleeping a few hours, I started driving toward Hanford at about 4:00 a.m.

Hanford Public Skatepark–7:00 a.m.
Imagine a 9,000-square-foot reservoir with lovely transitions. You’ve just imagined Hanford. The designers and builders get a pat on the back for their efforts. The park incorporates ledges, a monstrous pyramid, two boxes, hips, a bank to wall, and a twinkie. It also has two rails–one slanted down a drop, and one flat.

General info: Free, unsupervised, no pads required, open dawn to dusk.

Directions: Take Highway 198 into Hanford, exit at 11th Street, and head north. Turn right on Lacey, then left on Kaweah Street. The park’s behind the fire station and public swimming pool at 415 Ford Street.

Rating: 6/10. It’s loads of fun with lots of lines and the capability to go really fast–a must in my book.

Sunday Afternoon

After dropping my film off, I bolted to the hot tub for a much-needed soak. That night, I slept soundly, dreaming of better skateparks to come.

Disclaimer: I feel that all municipalities should provide skateparks for their youth that are free, unsupervised, and open from dawn to dusk. At times this bias is reflected in my ratings. I attempted to remain objective and judge based on the following criteria: variety of obstacles, number of design flaws, overall flow and maneuverability, functionality of the obstacles, and participant capacity. If a park was rated three of a possible ten, depending on your ability level, there’s a high probability that you’ll have a good time there. It simply boils down to personal preference, so get out there and experience them for yourself.–Kevin Marks