Skate park upgrades draw crowd

Keizer Parks Supervisor Robert Johnson (left) goes over planed upgrades with users of Carlson Skate Park at a public forum Wednesday, May 1.

Chris Styler grew up in Salem-Keizer and was in high school when Carlson Skate Park opened. Unfortunately, even then, it didn’t live up to his hopes and expectations. 

“I was very excited in the beginning, but I was also a little disappointed. I know a lot of work and energy went into it, but I’d seen other skate parks and this just wasn’t that,” Styler said. 

After moving away, Styler returned to the area five years ago and makes regular, almost daily, trips to Silverton and Newberg where the parks have a flow that Keizer and Salem’s skate parks largely lack. 

The city is hoping to remedy some of that pent up frustration by remodeling some of the most dilapidated areas of the park, the two bowls and the halfpipe. 

The owners of Dreamland Skate Parks, Mark and Danyel Scott, along with Keizer Parks Supervisor Robert Johnson, met with users of the parks on Wednesday, May 1, to discuss current plans and how they mesh with hopes of users. Almost 30 park users turned out to give feedback, making it was one of the largest gatherings for a city meeting in the past year. 

Currently, the two bowls in the skate park are unused for the most part. Over time, the concrete at the lower portion of the walls – where riders would begin an ascent – has developed large cracks. There is essentially one path rider can take: down one wall, up and over the other side of the bowl and into the larger park.

One attendee at the meeting said the bowls at Carlson are “glorified ditches.”

The proposed improvements would make it possible to move from bowl to bowl and then into the larger park without ever having to step of a skateboard, scooter or bike. 

“We will add new concrete over the bowls and steel coping. We want to make a perfect shell with more extensive grinding with some new ledges,” said Mark Scott. 

Styler said learning to ride in Carlson Skate Park, or even Salem’s, is unlike riding in parks designed by engineers with an understanding of how they are used. 

“When you learn to ride in Salem-Keizer and then go to another park somewhere else it’s like you have to relearn everything,” Styler said. “When you ride up a bowl or half pipe, it should feel natural to continue up into the air or up and over into the next space of the park. It doesn’t happen in this park because of the way it was built. You have to fight harder to go in the direction you want.”

Dreamland was the company that smoothed out some of the older surfaces and made the ride smoother and faster for users last summer. The improvements have rejuvenated interest in the park, but the bowls and halfpipe are the improvements riders want the most, Styler said. 

“The bowls are the worst aspect of the park and they are fixing the worst things. These are the places that could make it feel like an actual skate park,” Styler said. 

Danyel Scott said she and Mark would be back in the near future with improved conceptual drawings that take into account the feedback offered at the meeting. 

“Our goal is a safer, smoother surface and make the overall flow better. It’s a big, beautiful park, it just doesn’t function, Danyel said.