Washougal resident Rochelle Ramos has noticed a change in her son, Timothy, since he took up skateboarding six months ago.
“It’s really built up his confidence, and now he’s all about skateboarding,” she said. “He’s like, ‘Yeah, I like this.’ He’s really getting into it. And now my 11-year-old daughter is starting to get into it, so they have a shared interest. (Skateboarding) has made them bond.”
Fellow Washougal resident John Henriksen knows all about the benefits of skateboarding — he took up the hobby about 30 years ago and has passed it on to his children.
“I can’t do it as much now,” he said, “but (I love) the adrenaline rush. My son, Porter, is 14, and he’s been skateboarding since he was 4. I’ve always had a ramp at my house, and he just started coming out with me. He was just naturally good at it.”
For the past year-and-a-half, Ramos, a human resources director, and Henriksen, a civil engineer, have worked to bring skateboarding to more people in Camas and Washougal.
Their efforts will be rewarded on Saturday, Feb. 8, at a grand opening event for Ramos’ and Henriksen’s new nonprofit venture, Lunchmoney Indoor Skate Park, featuring live music, a raffle and free food.
“We were just looking for something for our kids to do in our community,” Ramos said of the push to create the new indoor skatepark. “Their highlight is hanging out in the Safeway parking lot until they get kicked out, and you can only do that so much. There is nothing here for teenagers to do, and my goal was to fulfill that market. We want to provide a safe and positive environment for them to hang out and be active. We always talk about our kids sitting at home playing video games. This gives them another opportunity to do something. Sports are great, but this is another niche they can try out.”
The park, which features a half-pipe, mini-bowl and retail area, has been well-received by children and parents so far, according to Ramos.
“This gives kids another place to hang out,” Henriksen said. “They won’t have to sit in the high school parking lot, doing whatever it is they’re doing. It’s supervised fun.”
In April 2019, Henriksen and Ramos purchased ramps and bowls from the owner of the defunct D-Block Indoor Skate Park in Clackamas, Oregon.
“And it just kind of evolved from there,” Ramos said. “We said, ‘There’s a need out here.’ The closest indoor park is in Milwaukie, (Oregon). We’ve been there maybe once just because of the (long) drive. There’s some outdoor skate parks in the area, but as we know, it rains here a lot. There is a skate park in Camas, and I know the city council has been working really hard to try to get that improved, but it’s not really utilized right now because the design isn’t there for what the kids need.”
Finding a suitable location for an indoor skatepark in Camas or Washougal proved to be a daunting task, however.
“We needed ceiling height, and that was extremely hard (to find),” said Ramos, a member of the Washougal Parks Board of Commissioners and former president of the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society board of directors. “We would find spaces that were big enough, but the ceilings weren’t high enough. We really wanted the (Washougal School District) bus barn, but they’re not ready to release that yet because they store a lot of excess desks and equipment in there. We even looked at purchasing a building, but the available buildings were way out of our price range.”
They eventually found a home at 421 “C” St., Ste. 5B in Washougal, inside a 2,700-square-foot space that formerly housed KT Bell Fitness for Women, and signed a lease in December.
“(We did) a lot of searching with local commercial agents, but we found this (space) on Craigslist. We got extremely lucky, and we were excited,” Ramos said. “For right now, the tall ceilings and the warehouse-type feel work for what we’re doing.”
Henriksen brought in a professional designer from Wisconsin to install the ramp and bowl, and Ramos said “it all kind of all came together within a couple of weeks.”
Ramos and Henriksen are funding the nonprofit skatepark and hope to attract sponsorships and/or grants from local businesses or other organizations in order to provide scholarships to children in need.
“Our goal is to never turn away a child that cannot afford to skate,” Ramos said, “but it takes a community to help support and sustain that.”
The skatepark will offer a two-hour pass for $10 ($8 for students with Camas or Washogual school identification); a $20 all-day pass; a one-month membership for $70; and a $700 annual membership, as well as a party rental option, which includes two hours of skating and pizza for 10 people for $200.
“We also want to do an after-school program so kids can come straight here after school and have something to do for a few hours until their parents are off work,” Ramos said. “We want to have pro skaters come in to teach and give lessons. The kids can have some adults that they can look up to who can act as mentors.”
After Ramos delivered a report about the skatepark during the city of Washougal’s Jan. 13 meeting, several councilmembers enthusiastically voiced their support for the business.
“This is a perfect example of what happens when the community steps up and does something,” councilman Ray Kutch said. “(Ramos) came here about a year ago to talk to us about a skate park, and we told her we would help, but we also told her that we’re not going to help unless (she) begins the process, because we don’t start things like that. The community does.”
“I’m thrilled about this,” councilman Paul Greenlee said. “If there’s one thing that you universally hear around the city, it’s that we need somewhere for our youth, our kids, to hang out. I’ve been hearing that for more than a decade now.”
Even though the park hasn’t officially opened yet, Ramos and Henriksen are already thinking about expanding.
“I think our biggest challenge is that we’re privately funding this out of our own pockets, and we can only do that for so long,” Ramos said. “So if it’s successful and we can go bigger and bring other things in, that would be wonderful. We’d love a larger space — John still has a bowl that’s twice as large as (the one that’s here now) that is still in storage. We’d love to have food. We’d love to have a place for the parents to hang out. But we can only do so much in 2,700 square feet.”
The skate park will be open from 3 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays; and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays.