photos by Zeena Gregg Photography
Ride the Deck
Famous skaters like Tony Hawk and Eric Koston all started from the same place – perfecting their skills on the streets and parks of their hometowns. The Rancho Peñasquitos Skate Park has long been a staple in 92129 for local boarders, but the park has recently gotten a facelift to make way for new additions and amenities for visitors. Turn the page to learn more about what makes this park a great place for gnarly tricks.
with Mary Ngai, Area Manager
When did the Rancho Peñasquitos Skate Park first open?
In 2005, the park opened with wooden ramps, which were removed for safety reasons in 2009.
Please explain the highlights of the newly renovated Skate Park.
The recently renovated Rancho Peñasquitos Skatepark offers a 22,000 square foot concrete skateboarding facility housing an impressive array of street and ramp styled features. New features include a multi-level skate plaza located in the southwest corner of the park with four stair handrail, bank ramps and grind box, double sided hubba grind ledge, high to low banked hip, banked hip with gap, angled manual pad, San Francisco styled Pier 7 manual pad and a generous staging area with seating.
In the center of the park lives a new street style stage feature with a loading dock element, multi-height grind ledges, grind rail with small euro gap, gap to hubba grind ledge with two small kicker ramps at different distances and a new twelve foot-long grind rail. Along the southeast corner of the park is a new addition to the family of medium-sized transition ramps at the park, including both inside and outside radius corners with metal coping, a three foot to four and a half foot ramp extension with grind ledge, and large hipped bank ramp. The existing picnic table features are now renovated and set into a new medium-sized bank ramp with euro gap. The western edge of the park now includes a wide quarter pipe with integrated grind ledge.
Two of the park’s grind rails have been upgraded and a new metal pole jam feature has been installed. Four new shade structures have been added to the park for relief from those hot summer days, including three square cantilever sails and one large triangular shade structure over the skateplaza. Other original features of the skatepark include a 3 flat 3 double stair set with kinked handrail, a replica of the San Dieguito ten stair rail with matching grind ledges, flat ledge and elevated pad, angled grind ledge, a spine ramp with transition hip, multi-height quarter pipe ramps with bowl corner, multi-height pyramid with ledges and rails, straight and curved bench style ledges and large bank ramp with launch ramp.
What are your responsibilities in your position?
As an area manager with the Park and Recreation Department, I oversee the maintenance and operations of all the parks in Rancho Peñasquitos, Torrey Del Mar, and Black Mountain Ranch. This includes Canyonside Recreation Center, Hilltop Recreation Center and the Rancho Peñasquitos Skate Park.
What other local projects have you worked on?
The most recent project was the new tot lot and ADA improvements at Views West Neighborhood Park which opened in July 2013.
When did renovations start on the Skate Park?
What, if any, changes to the landscape of the park were needed?
There were a few plants added to the landscaping around the park.
When did the park reopen? What were some of the highlights of the opening event?
The park reopened on June 19, 2014. The skaters have been very happy with the improvements. A formal ribbon cutting event was held on July 8, 2014 with Councilmember Mark Kersey, Park Board President Bill Diehl and other city staff who were key to completing the project in attendance.
What was the inspiration for Skate Park renovations? Who was behind the design?
Aric Sanders, who works for Schmidt Design Group, Inc. designed the new ramps and features. Aric also helped design the original skate park as a volunteer when it first opened. Aric was a professional skateboarder and is very familiar with the skate park and the people who use it.
How was/is the park funded?
The park is funded through the Rancho Peñasquitos Development Funds.
The park is used by skaters of all ages from elementary school children to adults and is open daily from 10 a.m. to dusk. Skaters must wear helmets, as well as elbow and knee pads.
Where can our readers go to sign-up for classes at the Skate Park?
They can register at the Canyonside Recreation Center. Online registration will be implemented on Aug. 23.
Are there fees to use the park?
No, there are not.
Approximately how many skaters visit the park?
We do not track specific attendance at the park, but from our observance we know that that over a hundred skaters visit the park on weekends.
What was the most memorable part of working at the Skate Park?
In working on this redevelopment project, I enjoyed working with Aric Sanders and learning why he designed the ramps and rails the way he did. He spent a lot of time and thought making the new features challenging, but also ensuring skaters of all skill levels could use them. He put a lot of thought and time into the new design.
Are there any special activities available specifically for children, teens, adults?
A summer camp is offered to elementary school children in the summer.
Now that the Skate Park has reopened, what is in store for future work on the park? Future activities?
We have heard from some patrons that lights would be desirable, though at this point, there are no plans for that. We are quite happy with the improvements that have been made, especially the new features and shade additions.
Mary Ngai At-A-Glance
Name: Mary Ngai
Community: Mira Mesa
Profession: Area Manager – Park and Recreation Department
Education: Bachelor’s Degree – San Diego State University
Favorite Local Spots in 92129: All the parks!
with Aric Sanders, Project Designer
What was the inspiration behind the original Skate Park design?
The original Rancho Peñasquitos Skate Park was designed to offer riders of all skill levels a variety of street and park style skateboarding experiences. Some features such as the ten stair handrail were patterned after famous skateboarding spots like the San Dieguito High School handrail.
What inspired the new additions to the Skate Park?
There were several goals to achieve on the project including improvements to the skate park features, upgrades for disabled access requirements in and around the park, and providing shade structures for relief during those hot summer months. Design inspiration for the new skate features was in keeping with the theme of street and park style offerings, and also drew inspiration from famous skateboard spots such as San Francisco’s Pier 7 manual pads.
Special attention was paid to maintain flow characteristics from feature to feature within the park. For example, where there was once a dead end where several sets of stairs came together, we removed one set of stairs and replaced it with a bank ramp and gap feature to allow path of travel though the area and reactivate the space. There is also a new quarter pipe with grind ledge added along the western perimeter of the park which offers riders new possibilities for creative tricks and redirection back into the heart of the park. One feature, the pole jam, was suggested by local pro skater and friend, Willy Santos.
Who were the key players in helping bring these designs to reality?
The Schmidt Design Group Project Manager Jeff Justus and Project Designer Aric Sanders, Burkett and Wong Engineers Structural Engineer Mark Batten, the City of San Diego Parks and Recreation Department Project Manager Sheila Bose and Project Officer Kevin Oliver, Resident Engineer Thomas Smith and Supervising Engineer Tony Perez, San Diego Parks and Recreation Board Chair Bill Diehl, City Parks and Recreation Area Manager Mary Ngai, City of San Diego Accessibility Inspector Alex Warner, USA Shade Representatives Patti Albrect and Mike Laney, Hank The Guardian Group and The Whistler Construction Team.
Tell us about your career as a skateboarder.
I am originally from Columbus, OH and first discovered skateboarding at the age of 4. I found my uncle’s Logan Earthski skateboard and was hooked from the first try. I was lucky enough to have patient and supportive parents that allowed me to skate constantly and do things like build skateboarding ramps, rails and other features and basically turn our house into a mini skate park. They also frequently took my bother Corey and myself to our local skateboard parks, Sunsports and Dodge Park.
I entered my first skateboard contest at around age 12 and continued to enjoy and grow with skateboarding for many years. In January of 1998, I decided to make the move to California to what I perceived to be the home of skateboarding and found the first of several sponsors, Human Skateboards, shortly after arriving in San Diego. From 1998 into the early 2000s were really my golden years with skateboarding. I went on several skateboard tours around the U.S. doing demonstrations including one of the Osiris Shoes Aftermath Tours. I continued to compete in contests and also began judging skateboard contests. I appeared in several skateboard videos such as Soul Grind’s Composure, Destro’s Neighborhood Watch and Willy’s Workshop’s Film This and had a few photos published in magazines like Thrasher, Automatic and Document. Oddly enough, I also had a few pictures featured in yearly skateboard calendars, special thanks Rhino.
In the mid 2000s, I began to have some health issues, mostly with my back, that really put a dent in my skateboarding ability. Around that same time I became involved in the original Rancho Peñasquitos Skate Park project as a community member, was tapped as a resource during design and continued to volunteer my time for quality control during construction. Upon completion of the Skate Park, I was awarded the certificate of unofficial project manager by the City, and shortly after that I was offered an opportunity to interview with the park design firm The Schmidt Design Group where I continue to work to this day. It has been a real honor to be a part of such an amazing project and to have the opportunity to apply my skateboard experience and knowledge from the original design process to help achieve the successful improvement of the park.
Have you done any other extreme sports?
I occasionally surf and snowboard, and I’ve nearly killed myself on the smallest of motocross jumps. I pretty much stick to skateboarding, but I do really enjoy rollercoasters and skydiving if those count as extreme.
What has been the most memorable moment for you at the Skate Park?
Being involved with the park for such a long time, I’ve had the opportunity to see a lot of younger kids grow up and develop their skills. Gil Marin is one of those Rancho Peñasquitos locals who lives and breathes the park and has been ripping on his skateboard for a long time. Seeing so many other great skaters make going to the park such an amazing experience, and you can frequently find notable San Diego riders at the park like Jaime Palmore, Jimmy Cao and skateboard legend Willy Santos with his son, Willy Jr.
What was most memorable about the park during the construction?
What is most memorable about the recent construction of the park was how dedicated all participating parties were and how well everyone coordinated and worked together during the course of the project. As a design and construction team, we often commented during site visits on how great it was to be a part of a project where no one was arguing.
What words of advice would you like to give for aspiring skaters/skateboarders in Rancho Peñasquitos?
Your skateboard is a more than just a useless wooden toy (skateboard video connoisseurs will get the reference). Come visit us at the Rancho Peñasquitos Skate Park, hone your skills, make new friends and enjoy our great skate park!
Aric Sanders At-A-Glance
Name: Aric Sanders
Profession: Landscape and Skateboard Park Designer at The Schmidt Design Group, Inc.
Hobbies/Interests: Design and construction, skateboarding, bowling, basketball, soccer, theme parks, billiards, music
Favorite Local Spots in 92129: Rancho Peñasquitos Skate Park
What’s New in the Skate Park
“A multi-level skate plaza… with four stair handrail, bank ramps and grind box, double sided hubba grind ledge, high to low banked hip, banked hip with gap, angled manual pad, San Francisco-styled Pier 7 manual pad and a generous staging area with seating.”
“A new street style stage feature with loading dock element, multi-height grind ledges, grind rail with small euro gap, gap to hubba grind ledge with two small kicker ramps at different distances and a new twelve foot-long grind rail.”
“Inside and outside radius corners with metal coping, a three foot to four and a half foot ramp extension with grind ledge, and large hipped bank ramp… a wide quarter pipe with integrated grind ledge.”
“Two of the park’s grind rails have been upgraded and a new metal pole jam feature has been installed.”
“Four new shade structures have been added… including three square cantilever sails and one large triangular shade structure over the skate plaza.”
“A 3 flat 3 double stair set with kinked handrail, a replica of the San Dieguito ten stair rail with matching grind ledges, flat ledge and elevated pad, angled grind ledge, a spine ramp with transition hip, multi-height quarter pipe ramps with bowl corner, multi-height pyramid with ledges and rails, straight and curved bench style ledges and large bank ramp with launch ramp.”
Online Registration for Your Local Rec Centers
Canyonside and Hilltop Parks are implementing a new online registration system starting this August for their many fun activities and classes offered, including the Skate Park! Do away with the cluttered application forms and log on to www.sdrecconnect.com to create an account and start searching for classes.
You can browse, apply, and pay for classes using a credit card, all from the comfort of your home. The recreation centers note that with online registration comes the possibility of changing session dates for your classes. Keep in touch with your program instructors for any changes in dates or adjusted fees.
Rancho Peñasquitos Skate Park At-A-Glance
Address: 10111 Carmel Mountain Rd., San Diego, CA 92129
Hours: Open 10 a.m to dusk every day of the year, including holidays
Contact: For more information about the Skate Park, contact the Canyonside Recreation Center at 858-538-8131 or head to www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation