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Remembering Derby Park

derby 2SANTA CRUZ > Facelift of historic skate park draws local nostalgia, ire, and some hasty negotiations by city officials

The face of one of the first public skate parks in the world is being replaced by four inches of rebar and concrete. Derby Skate Park, which was built in the 1970s, is a landmark of skateboarding history stationed on Santa Cruz’s Westside. Recently, Santa Cruz public officials felt that the timeworn curves and slopes of Derby had become too dangerous to allow.

“Derby Skate Park is undergoing a much needed resurfacing,” says Mauro Garcia, parks superintendent of the City of Santa Cruz. But Garcia noted that the community is, to put it mildly, miffed about the repairs.

“When Zack [Wormhoudt] went to the city to fight for his father’s park, the city told him that the bell had been rung,” says local skater Owen Commons. “[City councilmember] Ryan Coonerty wrote to my brother [and told him] that it was a foregone conclusion.”

 Skaters and community members were angry largely due to what they saw as poor communication by the city regarding the impending repairs. The city has changed tack recently, and has moved to work more closely with the local skating community following the rush of public outrage.

“Because the public has demonstrated quite a bit of interest in Derby, the project team has met with several representatives of the skating community,” Garcia says. “[We] will be incorporating changes to the design which will incorporate both aspects of the original design of Derby as well as components which have long been desired by the skating community at Derby Park.”

Some proposed alterations to the park include (skater terms incoming) a 40-foot section of “original style” double-sided lip near the top of the “snake run,” a 48-foot section of “original style” double-sided lip around portion of the bowl, a “rocket pocket” at the beginning of the “snake run,” and increased height to the lower hip.

Garcia also points out that the proposed designs are coming from in-house, so to speak.

“The repairs were designed by Wormhoudt Inc.—the original designers of Derby,” says Garcia. “Every effort is being made to keep the form of the skate park, with only minor changes to areas that have historically been trip hazards, and added improvements associated with the original design of Derby.”

Mike Greenwald, the concrete contractor for the repairs, is a skater himself. Additionally, Zach Wormhoudt, son of original designer Ken Wormhoudt, was brought on for consulting.

Derby was notable for weathering the storm of skate park closures in the late ’70s and early ’80s due to skyrocketing insurance costs.

“Derby is skateboarding history,” says Commons, echoing a widespread sentiment among the skateboarding community. Although, while some feel that the repairs are for the best, others feel that the city’s move is an attack on an historical monument.

The project is scheduled to be completed on May 17.

PHOTO: Santa Cruz skater and 2011 X Games Gold medalist Raven Tershy at Derby Skate Park. Photo by Matt Scott.

Comments (4)Add Comment
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written by Santacruzin, May 04, 2012
Yep, one of the first places I ever skated. Lots of fun times. Went to Natural Bridges too right in front of it. I hope they don't mess it up. Just leave good things alone...
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written by James Alley, May 04, 2012

We shouldn't bemoan the upcoming 2012 overhaul, because it has the potential to fix some of the problems related to that ~1990 overhaul. It may even add new elements. So let's have some faith.

In other words, "purists" shouldn't be upset, because this might return Derby to its original state. And Derby haters might find that the improvements make it more fun than ever.

Certainly 20 years is long enough for Derby to go without maintenance. I for one am thrilled that Derby is not simply being jackhammered. I'm glad the city is investing in its future while keeping an eye on its past history.
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written by James Alley, May 04, 2012
I've skated Derby for decades. Everyone should keep in mind that around 1991 Derby was overhauled, and it completely changed the experience of riding Derby. While that previous overhaul ruined certain aspects of skating Derby by taking away certain lines and destroying the long lips, it also improved the park in some ways, making it more accessible to novices and a bit cleaner. New styles of play developed.
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written by TheDude, May 04, 2012
My father took me for my first time at Derby. I skated my yellow banana board in the spring of 1982 --I was 7. Many memories followed. They better get this right.

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