Oakland skatepark thrives one year later

Marquis Jaramillo,

Oakland’s Town Park Skate Gallery looks sleek and professional. Shiny metal coping and sharp corner ledges line the top edges of new, smooth concrete transition sections of the park, allowing skaters seemingly endless possibilities for maneuvers, tricks and runs.

This park covers 8,300 square feet with transitions reaching as high as nine feet, rails that stretch up to six feet long and a set of stairs totaling eight steps. Surrounding the park are graffiti pieces and murals from local Oakland artists.

But the park didn’t look this way: for eight years the DeFremery Skate Park use to be a rundown do-it-yourself skatepark.

Town Park started out unlike any skatepark in California, or even the United States. Original construction began in 2005 by local skaters and community activists looking to establish a spot to skate in the west part of Oakland. They found leftover wood from an abandoned skate park at a Boys and Girls Club 30 minutes away, and hauled it all back to DeFremery Park where they created obstacles to skate on.

Keith “K-Dub” Williams was the man behind the operations in West Oakland. Once an art teacher and now an artist and community activist, Williams turned a rundown empty space into a do-it-yourself skate park. In 2009, the city used $40,000-50,000 to pave and fence the area where Keith was building his project. An additional $35,000 grant from the city was used to re-vamp the surfaces of the old wooden ramps to keep them in good condition for skating.

With social media taking notice of “K-Dub’s” project, it was only a matter of time before this park would be transformed into what it is today.

In 2015, the city of Oakland, Levi’s Skateboarding, California Skateparks — a nationally recognized organization that has built 350+ parks and 10 parks outside the country — and Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation supported Williams’ project financially and by supplying materials, allowing him to build his park hassle-free, and his hard work has not gone unnoticed.

Local skater Isaiah Davis who use to live down the street from DeFremery Park said the new skate park has “definitely brightened the community,” by bringing out the local children, as well as artists to literally add color to the concrete. Davis is a sponsored skater who is allowed to continue his skating career through support from DGK, Lakai Limited, Spitfire wheels and for the city of San Francisco, who noticed him at Potrero del Sol Skatepark, another park in the Bay Area.

The community vibe is felt throughout the park. Clyde McElveen brought his two-year-old son to the park on a recent windy Friday afternoon to teach him how to skateboard. The locals cheered him on as he peddled his way around, even letting the two-year-old use their boards. One local took the boy and began to teach him how to roll down the ramps.

“Instead of basketball, football and tennis you know, this is something kids can go do and burn energy,” said McElveen. “Or if they might be having problems it’s a whole other outlet.”

This space provided to Williams has proved to be an excellent resource for community members. There was a large influence and a push for skateparks at community focus groups in Oakland, said Dana Riley, supervisor of Parks and Recreation of Oakland. “The skate park serves the youth, and the older youth, by keeping them busy in a constructive way.”

As of now, there are no plans to build a new skatepark in Oakland’s future.