Skateboarder Dexter Bernnath, 11, takes his case to the City Council. Photos by Steve Whitmore

The South Pasadena City Council got a whiff of what happens when you take away the arena from those skateboard enthusiasts that search every day for the perfect ride on a hard surface.

On May 1, the council received an earful of complaints and a tutorial of sorts from a small cabal of skateboarders who told the elected body to keep their hands off the South Pasadena Skatepark, at the bottom of Stoney Drive in Arroyo Park next to the batting cages, which the city had shuttered.

The skaters told the council to open the skatepark and open it now.

Apparently, an anonymous individual donated a square cement rectangle box – a skate feature that is four-feet long and one- foot off the ground – that skaters use to accomplish certain tricks such as grinding or getting edge and even launching airborne. It’s a perfect addition to the skatepark in the eyes of those who use it.

However, the addition was not permitted properly or at all, city officials said, and therefore had to be demolished and removed. That’s where the trouble started. The city closed the park to accomplish the task of demolishing the structure to loud protests.

“They closed the skatepark because somebody donated a $10,000 object to the skater out of their own kindness and it’s been torn down because it didn’t have a city permit and it was liable if somebody fell on it,” said Dexter Bernath, 11, outside the City Council meeting May 1 after he testified. “If people got injured they could blame the city since it didn’t have a permit. It has been closed for one day now, making it two tonight.”

Bernath who was accompanied by his mother, Carrie Hirsch, wowed the council with his oratory and grasp of the issue. So much so that Mayor Dr. Marina Khubesrian said his presentation was most eloquent and he did so within the time frame allotted to public speakers of three minutes. She congratulated him.

However, Bernath along with others who addressed the council were not at the meeting to be complimented.

“Skaters are going to skate, anywhere, if it’s in the skatepark or not,” Bernath said. “Today I went and skated out in the street and in other peoples’ property and businesses, which puts me at risk of hurting myself more. I have to find obstacles on my own. Those obstacles could not be very good, and sketchy and dangerous. And that’s because the skatepark is closed. Skaters are going to skate anywhere because that’s our kind of mentality. If the skate park is open, they will skate there. And that’s what I stand for.’

Will Fisher performs a perfect cutback off a ramp at the park last Friday.

Another avid skateboarder, Lenny Dodge-Kahn, 14, echoed his young colleague’s comments, adding that he wanted to find a way to retroactively permit the feature.

“It’s an obstacle for skateboarding on,” Dodge-Kahn said. “Originally, our issue was that it was built without a permit, so we wanted to find a way to retroactively permit the feature. Then it could stay up because it’s really helpful and it takes more money and effort to destroy it then to leave it. But we actually just found out that it’s most likely already been destroyed from those at the skatepark today.”

Dodge-Kahn also said that not only do they want the park reopened but they want to have the obstacle rebuilt.

“We want the park open but we also want to find out how this guy can legally rebuild the structure,” Dodge-Kahn said. “We all want it.”

Their message was apparently received because the skatepark was open May 4 with a small group enjoying the arena sans the recently removed skate feature. The skaters vowed to continue to improve the park and fight for the structure to be replaced. This time with all the proper permits.

Gabriel Nicoll goes airborne at South Pasadena’s Skatepark that was closed for two days. Photos by Steve Whitmore
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Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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