OCEANSIDE — Skateboarders and advocates want to see changes at the city’s largest skatepark on the north side of the city, including a name change.
The park formally known as Alex Road Skatepark, a name chosen by the city when the park was being planned in 2010, is located at the corner of Foussat and Alex Roads just north of Route 76.
Opened in 2013, the 22,700-acre concrete park includes bowls, snake runs, banks, rails and ledges, as well as a viewing area, a small parking lot and a single-stall bathroom. The popular, well-used skate park is open during daylight hours only because there are no lights installed at the park.
There is also no running water, which is second on Micaela Ramirez’s list for needed changes at the park. Her and many other skateboarders’ top priority is to first change the name from Alex Road to “Prince Park.”
The name change would honor the late Michael “Prince” Johnson, a professional Oceanside skateboarder who died about a month before the park opened. Many locals have been calling it Prince Park for years.
“He was a local hero,” Ramirez said. “He inspired so many kids to stay out of gangs, out of violence and off drugs.”
Ramirez is the president and founder of Poseiden Foundation, a local non-profit with a global reach that encourages youth to find their passion through skateboarding. The non-profit has been involved in the name change effort and pushing for improvements to the park, and also runs a skateboard exchange program through word of mouth with the young skaters there.
According to Ramirez, many of the kids who skate at Prince Park come from low socioeconomic backgrounds and often go without food. Poseiden Foundation has previously brought food and other items like shoes to provide for kids at the park.
Ramirez said that some of the park’s younger skaters stay as long as they can at the park because it’s a safe place away from their neighborhoods threatened by gang violence or from their abusive homes.
Ramirez wants to know why the name change still hasn’t happened. The park never received running water, shade and other amenities in the first place. She also said the bathroom isn’t cleaned often by the city.
“The bathroom used to be atrocious but it’s cleaner now because the kids cleaned it to leave a message to the city,” Ramirez said.
Without running water, the park was left without a proper sanitation station for some time until more recently when a portable station was installed. Ramirez credits Councilmember Christopher Rodriguez for that sanitation station, as well as more overall attention to the park from the city.
“When we met with kids there last time, they couldn’t believe there was toilet paper in the bathroom,” Ramirez said.
Christopher Rodriguez, who represents District 2, has taken a particular interest in the city’s largest skate park located in District 1.
According to Rodriguez, he sent an email to City Manager Deanna Lorson and the Parks and Recreation staff requesting the installation of shade sails there, which was approved by Council in a 4 to 1 vote back in September.
Councilmember Esther Sanchez, who represents District 1 where the park is located, voted against the sails because of resident’s concerns regarding plastics and other toxic chemicals in the sails’ material. Instead, she preferred the use of shade trees or potentially a shade structure with a solar panel that could potentially power lights at the park to prolong skating time.
Ramirez said shade trees would take a long time to grow big enough to provide the shade needed at the park, where skaters have been going without shade for seven years now.
Public Works Division Manager Nathan Mertz told Council at its Sept. 9 meeting, when the shade sails were approved, that the park would need an induction system to store power to use solar at night, otherwise, it would be better to just connect to San Diego Gas & Electric for sports lighting.
Ramirez was told the shade sails would be installed no later than February 2021.
When Rodriguez walked through the park with residents, he found the bathrooms to be “unsatisfactory” and later met with city staff at the park to discuss short-term and long-term infrastructure improvements there. Not long after, the hand sanitizing station was brought to the park.
Rodriguez is also supportive of the name change.
“I fully support the name change and look forward to the public process to get the name change,” he told The Coast News.
Ramirez said changing the name would inspire more pride from skaters for the park, who would then take more responsibility for what is essentially their home away from home.