Craig Waltz’s passion for designing skate parks is unstoppable — his professors told him it was unrealistic because the skate park business was difficult to get into, but he continued to design them.
Today, he’s a project manager at Wormhoudt Inc., a firm specializing in designing skate parks, and he’s wrapping up the construction documents for the local skate area in Santa Rosa Park, the exact location and subject of one of his Cal Poly projects.
“It’s really weird that three years down the road, I’m working for a skate park design firm that gets a job in the very site of my senior project,” Waltz said.
Waltz, a landscape architecture alumnus, was allowed to choose the location and program design of many class projects, including his senior project.
“For a lot of our projects, our professors would give us free range to design whatever space we wanted,” he said. “I would always do skate parks, because I was always interested in them.”
The landscape architecture department makes it possible for students such as Waltz to incorporate their interests into the major, said Joseph Ragsdale, interim department head.
“One of the things that our department is known for is a ‘learner-centered’ approach,” Ragsdale said. “The students are allowed to pick from a range of courses starting in their third and fourth years.”
Waltz, who has been skating since he was 5 years old, took a class in automated computer aided design/drafting — AutoCAD — a program used to design architecture projects including skate parks.
Taking the class in AutoCAD prepared him for Wormhoudt Inc. and the real world in landscape architecture, Waltz said.
After graduating, Wormhoudt hired Waltz, and he has since helped design more than 100 skate parks, including the skate area in Santa Rosa Park.
Waltz skated at Santa Rosa Park while he was a student at Cal Poly because he couldn’t skate on campus. But the park was composed of broken wooden ramps, nothing compared to what he went on to design with Wormhoudt, Waltz said.
The park has barely improved since Waltz left, but the local skate community finally brought attention to the deteriorating park in 2007.
The San Luis Obispo City Council promised to temporarily improve the park and put the plans for a new facility on its agenda, said Shannon Bates, recreation and public art manager.
“They organized themselves, started reaching out to city officials and they came out in numbers — the whole gamut,” Bates said. “They didn’t let up until the council said ‘Okay, we agree. We’ll do this.’”
Part of that initial commitment was to temporarily refurbish the park, Bates said.
The current skate park, which is located at 1050 Oak St., approximately a mile from the Cal Poly campus, now features modular, steel ramps finished with Masonite, a type of hardwood.
Once the ramps were improved, the city hired RRM Design Group to design the whole park, and RRM hired Waltz and Wormhoudt Inc. to design the skate park area.
Before official designing began, RRM and Wormhoudt held community planning groups and workshops to encourage community involvement and opinion in the building process, Bates said.
The San Luis Obispo skate community wanted a combination of both transition and street-type terrain, Waltz said.
Wormhoudt included pools and bowls, large cement basins with smooth sides, and rails, steel stair handrails, in the plans for the skate area, Waltz said.
The skate park will have sections that are challenging for the best skaters, and sections that are easy for the beginners, he said.
The plans for the whole park are 98 percent complete, and the city is in the fundraising process.
The total project is estimated to cost $1,947,600.
The public art department that Bates is in charge of has raised $45,000 toward the total project cost.
The amount has been raised through entrance fees at skateboard deck decorating shows and skateboarding competitions, and in combination with the Buy a Brick campaign, which allows donors to purchase bricks with a personalized message that will be displayed in the park.
“Having such a large goal, it takes little by little to chip away at that amount,” Bates said.
In addition, the city has been awarded the Tony Hawk Grant, worth $25,000, and is waiting to hear back from the Proposition 84 Grant.
Proposition 84, the Safe Drinking and Water Act, includes a competitive grant program of park development and community revitalization. The city would like to receive $1,272,600 from the Proposition 84 Grant, Bates said.
If the city does not receive the grant or has not raised enough funds by December, city council will reconsider the budget and the designs for the park, Bates said.
The city would have to consider its commitment level, she said.
“We have the ability to take loans out and use creative financing, but we’d have to put our construction schedule back,” Bates said.
Even if the city does not receive the large grant, the plans to build a skate park will still move ahead, she said.
“I don’t see this project dying if we don’t get that huge grant — I think we can find a way to do it,” Bates said.
In December, the city should hear back the results of the grant application.
“I think the city is committed, and we’ve gone through this much already that I don’t think they’re just going to stick it on a shelf at this point,” Bates said.
Once the fundraising process is complete and plans are finalized, the city will put the plans up for contractors to bid on.
A contractor will be selected based on his or her bid and plans, and then building will begin under RRM and Wormhoudt supervision.
Excavation for the whole park should begin Summer 2012 if the city receives the grant or other sufficient funding, Bates said.
“I think it’s going to have a huge community impact,” Bates said. “Skaters now have a place to go, and the project itself is not just a skate park; it has a lot of opportunities to become a new venue for events.”
Meetings, concerts, performances, farmers’ market, art displays and other events can be held at the new Santa Rosa Park, Bates said.
The close location will not only be better for Cal Poly events, but also for Cal Poly skaters, she said.
“It’s been quite a process, but every step of the way there has been movement, at no point has it been stagnant,” Bates said.
This article was written by Meghan Legg.