OCEANSIDE — Skaters who frequent Alex Road Skatepark, or “Prince Park,” are hopeful about potential improvements coming to the park.
At a March 10 Oceanside City Council meeting, City Manager Deanna Lorson indicated that staff is working on putting together a “package” plan of several potential improvements that could be made to the park, including installing running water, hand-washing stations, flushable toilets, a water bottle filling station and landscaping enhancements.
The popular skate park located on the corner of Foussat and Alex Roads currently has no running water and only a single vault toilet. Back in the fall, the city brought in a portable hand-washing station.
Staff is also looking into whether the city is able to bring electricity to the park and what that would cost. Connecting the park to electricity would mean the city could install lights there. Without any lights at night, the park is currently only open during daylight hours.
Councilmember Kori Jensen, who represents District 1 where the park is located, brought the issue of the park to Council and asked that staff would bring back the plan to Council’s budget workshop on April 14.
Councilmember Christopher Rodriguez backed Jensen’s push for improvements to the skate park. Though he represents District 2, he took a special interest in the park back in the fall.
Both Jensen and Rodriguez said some of the improvements like flushable toilets and proper hand-washing stations are needed from a health and sanitation standpoint. Both have previously visited the park and were dissatisfied with the restroom there.
Josh Carson, a local skater and longtime advocate for the park, appreciates the two councilmembers for caring about the park.
“Chris Rodriguez is the first guy to (care),” Carson told The Coast News. “Jensen is the best — she came here her first day in office to hang out with us.”
Both councilmembers also support an official name change for the park from “Alex Road” to “Prince Park.”
The name Prince Park is in honor of the late Michael “Prince” Johnson, a professional Oceanside skateboarder who died about a month before the park opened. Johnson was a dear friend to Carson and several other longtime advocates of the park.
“No one’s ever called it Alex Road that I know,” Carson said. “I’ve never heard anyone call it that except for City Council.”
The issue of the park’s name has come up in council discussion in the past few months but so far the official Alex Road name has stayed in place.
Carson said he has been pushing for the name change for at least eight years, having collected signatures for a petition that he said he turned in but was told that the city never received it.
Carson frequently brings water to give out to skaters at the park, and has even brought toilet paper when the restroom wasn’t being serviced as frequently by the city. He’s also participated in several skateboard giveaways there as well.
Micaela Ramirez, fellow local skater and founder of the Poseiden Foundation, has also been advocating for the park’s improvements and name change. Through her non-profit that encourages youth to find their passion through skateboarding, she has also helped give out water, skateboards and other needs at the park.
“That park is such a precious park,” Ramirez told Council. “People from around the world know about it, and Oceanside should take pride in that.”
The Skatepark Project, formerly known as the Tony Hawk Foundation, originally gave the city a $25,000 grant to build the park. Alec Beck, programs manager for the Skatepark Project, told Council that several of the suggested improvements were intended in the park’s original plans.
Not everyone is in favor of the potential improvements for the park.
Resident Roger Davenport doesn’t think there is an issue with the services the park already has.
“There’s a toilet there, there’s a place to wash your hands, and people bring their own water everywhere they go in the city,” Davenport said. “I don’t think there’s a real issue here of not having health and safety.”
Davenport also said bringing lights to the park would increase drug and alcohol usage there.
When Mayor Esther Sanchez voted to approve Jensen’s direction to staff, she noted that she was not in favor of installing lighting at the park and would only approve of improvements at a low cost for the city. She also noted that the city has several other projects that need to be prioritized that she wants to see completed.
Councilmember Peter Weiss also supported the item but noted he would like staff to evaluate the “number of priorities” the city already has pending, such as increasing access to sports fields in the city.
Carson feels the city and residents unfairly stereotype the people who use the park as vandals who want to trash the place, which he explained is completely false.
“We take care of our park,” Carson told Council.
According to Carson, who lives in the nearby Fireside neighborhood, many of the kids who frequent the park come from bad home situations and rough neighborhoods escape their problems for a while by coming to the park.
“We all came from some bad (things), most of the people that use this park,” Carson told The Coast News. “This is just where we come and get our anger management, drug rehab, everything.”