Local skateboarders and BMX bicyclists fighting for nearly a year to restore and renovate the city of Camas’ ailing skatepark got some good news this month — city leaders have included two new parks maintenance workers, as well as $75,000 to go toward “skatepark improvements,” in the city’s proposed 2019-20 budget.
The 12,500-square-foot Camas skatepark, located next to the Riverside Bowling Alley off Northeast Third Avenue and Shepherd Road, was built in the early 2000s as a joint venture between Camas and Washougal.
The only skatepark in East Clark County, it was built to be a “street course” with ramps, rails, picnic tables, a loading dock and stairs. But skaters say the park and its elements have deteriorated significantly over the last decade.
“I don’t want to fault the city. I grew up skating in my backyard and on what I could find,” Tim Laidlaw, a lifelong skateboarder and frequent user of the Camas skatepark, said. “I want to try to push the city to do better.”
Laidlaw, a 54-year-old father and Washougal resident since 2005, started his skatepark renovation efforts in November 2017. He approached the Washougal City Council first, since that’s where he lives, but found out the park is maintained by the city of Camas.
Since then, Laidlaw has formed a Facebook group called Riverside Bowl and gathered donations and supporters who hope city leaders will pitch in to repair and upgrade the park.
In May, Camas Parks and Recreation staff told city councilors that their department’s current budget is insufficient to keep parks in good repair.
“It’s vital that we somehow find a way to keep the preventative, ongoing maintenance, to take care of what we have,” said Parks and Recreation Manager Jerry Acheson at the May city council workshop.
Acheson said he was unavailable to comment on this story.
Laidlaw has done what he can — legally, logistically and financially — to keep Riverside in working order, but said he wishes the city could keep up with routine maintenance that should be a given in a place like Camas, which is known for its parks and green spaces.
Laidlaw enlisted the help of architects from Lewallen Architecture of Camas to speak the city’s language.
“I went to (the city) with basically a drawing on a piece of paper,” Laidlaw said. “They said, ‘We need a professional drawing and professional pricing.'”
Utilizing some of the money he raised through a fundraiser on the skater-led Riverside Bowl Facebook page — and generous pricing from Lewallen — Laidlaw now has a set of illustrations to show city leaders what the park could look like. The plans call for a new concrete quarter pipe ringing the northeast corner of the park, as well as a concrete obstacle within the pipe.
“The biggest thing is, the city’s gotta bite.” Laidlaw said. “The city has gotta say ‘Hey, we’re gonna do this.'”
Jason Ferrier, of Lewallen Architecture, said he thinks the park has potential.
“You’ve already got the groundwork done, by the shape and the existing concrete, you just have to add this component to finish it off,” Ferrier said. “I think it would be a nice selling point for the cities of Camas and Washougal, to say ‘We’re not just a little city.'”
The skatepark revamp won’t be free, though. Ferrier provided an early estimate of $150,000. Laidlaw has collected money through his group’s Facebook site, and has approached local service groups, like the Camas-Washougal Rotary Club, which helped build the original skatepark, seeking financial assistance. He said he also has talked with local brewery owners about putting on a music festival at the skatepark, with proceeds going toward park improvements and renovations.
Of course, Laidlaw and the local skaters and bicyclists who use the park still hope the city will contribute to the efforts. The city’s proposed $75,000 toward skatepark improvements in the biennial budget is a start, but city leaders have not yet approved the 2019-20 budget.
Ferrier said that funding a functional skatepark seems to be in line with other changes in the Camas-Washougal community.
“You look at the growth in this area — the amount of new apartments that are going in, the amount of people that are flooding into Clark County — the parks and the services should grow with that,” Ferrier said. “If you’ve got more people here, there are more kids here, they’re going to need more places to go. The park represents a safe place for kids to go.”
In the meantime, Laidlaw is doing what he can to maintain the park, which is a mile from his home. He and friends have cleared out brush growing over into the park in the last year, and he said he picks up trash in the area every time he walks through.
Laidlaw hopes his efforts will inspire the area’s younger citizens to follow suit.
“That’s been my main drive. My main drive is to try to encourage them to care for the park themselves, encourage them to take ownership of the park,” Laidlaw said. “Half the reason the park is empty today is because of their negligence, as well as the negligence of the city.”
Laidlaw also believes an improved skatepark would attract users that will care for the park in the future.
“It’s hard to get responsible youth that skate (to) have anything vested in the park as it is,” he said. “(A better park will draw) people that will get upset at other people standing in the park, smoking cigarettes and breaking glass instead of skateboarding.”
The Washougal skater knows he and his group of park advocates have many more hoops to jump through and meetings to attend, but he said he is not even close to giving up on improving the skatepark.
“I’m trying to get the right people involved. I’m trying to portray the right message from me,” Laidlaw said. “I’m just a crusty old kook trying to make my Saturday better at the park — and this would make my Saturday at the park better.”
Want to learn more about the skatepark improvement efforts, or contribute to the Riverside Bowl group’s fundraiser? Visit www.facebook.com/groups/RiversideBowl.