If users of a new skatepark opening Thursday in south Bakersfield have any complaints about its features, they have only themselves to blame. Literally.
"We let the community design it," said Dianne Hoover, director of the Bakersfield Parks and Recreation Department.
Hoover told the design firm that won the bid to build the park -- located at Planz Park, just west of South High School -- that local skaters' ideas would be the guiding force for the project. Public comment was gathered at a community meeting and on the Facebook page of Spohn Ranch, the Los Angeles design firm that broke ground in February.
"They were able to design their skatepark," Hoover said. "What you see out there is stairs and rails as well as a bowl, not a deep bowl like the one at Beach Park but a shallower bowl. Kids will be able -- if they're unskilled -- to work up to a higher skill level. On the other end of the bowl, you have a wall where they can skate up and skate back down. Very cool."
The bulk of funding for the $400,000 park came from a community development block grant and the remainder -- about $40,000 -- came from the city budget. The skatepark replaces a public pool at Planz Park, which also features a playground and spray park.
Hoover said surveys the city has conducted show that skateparks are among residents' most requested amenities. The city currently has one, at Beach Park in central Bakersfield, and the county runs one at Heritage Park on Mount Vernon.
"A city of this size should have four or five," said Hoover, who noted her department is hoping to put in a skatepark at the Mesa Marin Sports Complex in the northeast.
"Kids are going to skateboard. It's a sport that we want to be able to accommodate. Oftentimes they're in front of businesses and things so the more skateparks we can offer will allow them to participate in their sport."
When asked about any potential liability, Hoover explained the city reduces its exposure by following several state rules, including: not charging admission, offering no supervision, and posting signs warning users to wear helmets and protective pads.
The park opens with a celebration at 3:30 Thursday -- timed conveniently around school schedules. There will be a deejay, local skate shops will be out, and some giveaways are planned.
"They can't wait," said Hoover when asked about the feedback she's received. "We are so excited to be able to offer this and take the fence down. We're just hoping kids can wait until after school."
If you love the grand old flag, you'll want to make time to visit the Park at River Walk this Memorial Day weekend. Rotary has mapped out the park and will plant 1,000 flags throughout the site -- and these are not the little souvenir-shop flags you wave at a parade.
"They're all the same size and are good-size flags," said Hoover, who noted there will be booths staffed with veterans groups and several activities through the weekend.
"It will be something to see."
The public is free to tour the park at any time to take in the flags, but an official tribute to service members who have sacrificed for their country will begin at noon Monday.
"I hope (Californian photographer) Casey Christie can get out there and shoot some photographs. He's one of the best," Hoover said.
For more on the observances surrounding the 1,000-flag event and other Memorial Day weekend events, turn to our calendar section, Page 33.
Fireworks show returns
Hoover also reported that the free fireworks show will return to the Park at River Walk on the 4th of July, the second year the southwest location will host the patriotic display.
In addition to the fireworks, there will be food booths, and visitors are encouraged to bring chairs and/or blankets for the picnic setting.
"Dogs need to stay on the leash," she said. "But we recommend that dogs stay at home. They get jittery with fireworks."