Turlock Skate Park Move Finalized; Sale to TID Still “In the Works”

Alex Cantatore|

Turlock's Brandon Koch Memorial Skate Park will move to Donnelly Park, following a unanimous vote of the Turlock City Council Tuesday evening.

But the exact time frame for the move remains hazy, as city staff recently learned that the current skate park was funded, in part, by a State Parks and Recreation grant. As such, no move can occur without state permission.

The City of Turlock had previously planned to close the existing skate park in November, with the relocated Donnelly Park skate park to open in April. Staff now says that the Starr Avenue skate park will remain open “indefinitely,” until the issue with California can be addressed.

“We work for the government,” said Turlock Parks, Recreation, and Public Facilities Manager Allison Van Guilder. “Sometimes things don't go as quickly as we want because we have to go through certain processes.

The roughly six-month construction schedule will look to minimize the time that Turlock is without a functional skate park, as the move will necessitate the closure of the old skate park to move some ramps and rails.

Turlock will look to spend $240,000 on the new skate park, using revenues from the sale of the existing park. The funding will be used to design a larger, more modern skate park with flowing trails of trick spots rather than a crowded central plaza.

“Every indication is that we'd have a superb skate park with that budget,” said Turlock City Manager Roy Wasden.

The relocation comes as the City of Turlock is in talks to sell the 900 N. Palm St. Turlock Police Department to the Turlock Irrigation District, part of a strategy to fund the new $33 million Public Safety Facility on Broadway. The Brandon Koch Memorial Skate Park shares a parcel with the police department, as does the Turlock War Memorial. The War Memorial's fate following the sale remains uncertain.

The City of Turlock has rarely spoken about the proposed sale in public, as all negotiations have occurred in confidential closed session. But Wasden confirmed Tuesday that negotiations with TID are ongoing.

“The sale to TID is still in the works,” Wasden said.

According to Van Guilder, the new Donnelly Park location was the best available given the necessary relocation of the skate park. The community park is planned for such regional amenities and features plentiful parking, permanent restrooms, and a central Turlock location adjacent to the Regional Transit Hub.

“I originally had an opposition to the idea, but hearing the benefits that was presented by Parks and Recreation, I'm for it,” said Turlock skateboarder George Fagundes.

But all other speakers Tuesday evening were opposed to the Donnelly Park site. The concerns were myriad, ranging from the deleterious affects of duck droppings on skateboard traction to the need for children to cross the busy Geer Road and the currently limited hours of Donnelly Park restrooms.

Safety was also a concern, as two major criminal incidents have occurred at Donnelly Park in the past month: an attempted rape, and a throat slashing. And the adjacent playground, framed as a positive to the site, could result in dangerous situations when small children step in front of fast-moving adult skateboarders.

“That kid's not going to survive,” said Zach Wagner, a friend of Koch. “Well, they're going to survive, but they're going to get hurt.”

Despite the concerns Donnelly Park remains the “most appropriate setting,” Van Guilder said. The skateboarders will scare away ducks, reducing droppings, the playground is fenced in, reducing the number of wandering children, and children across the city could avoid walking across Geer Road by instead taking the bus to the nearby transit hub.

A new summer bus pass could be developed to aid with the transportation concerns, however, and the restroom hours could be extended.

Though many details remain to be hammered out, one thing is certain: the new skate park will continue to honor the memory of Brandon Koch, a longtime skateboarder and mentor to youth at the Turlock Skate Park who died from adrenocortical cancer in 2011.

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