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'Window to Sea' May Be Opened to Skateboarders

December 08, 1995|LESLIE EARNEST | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

LAGUNA BEACH — Main Beach Park may be this city's prized "window to the sea," but it may also become the site of a skateboard arena.

The Laguna Beach City Council voted unanimously this week to explore the idea of building a skateboard park at either Main Beach or adjacent Heisler Park.

"I'd put it at Main Beach," said Mayor Wayne L. Peterson. "This is a spectator sport. People like doing it and being watched, and people like watching them."

The action surprised recreation committee chair Anne Johnson, whose group has been searching for a skateboard park site since February. The committee, she said, had not seriously considered Main Beach, the most high profile parcel in town and already home to a heavily used basketball court.

"We looked upon Main Beach as our window to the sea, sort of," she said.

Other residents said they were stunned by the council's action.

"I watched [the council meeting] on TV and I thought, 'Whoa, wait till the community hears about this one," said Johanna Felder, a member of Village Laguna, formed 20 years ago to keep high-rises from being built near Main Beach. "I don't think Main Beach is the appropriate place for a skateboard park, and I don't think Heisler Park is either."

City leaders say the arena probably would be at least 50 feet square. Johnson said its dimensions would depend on the location but it probably would be bowl-shaped. Or, on a flat surface, it might amount to a series of wooden or concrete ramps that would rise six feet, Johnson said. If installed on a sloping area, the ramps could be contoured to the slopes, she said.

The recreation committee considered about 16 sites, finally recommending one of two tennis courts on the Festival of Arts grounds or a parcel at Laguna Canyon Road and Canyon Acres Drive. The tennis court has several advantages, including the fact that the city already owns it. But city leaders said tennis players probably would not give it up without a fight.

The city staff favored neither option, recommending instead Alta Laguna Park or Moulton Meadows Park.

But council members had their own ideas.

Councilman Wayne J. Baglin said he liked the idea of putting a skateboard arena where Broadway ends at Main Beach. Councilwoman Kathleen Blackburn agreed, but also suggested converting a shuffleboard court at Heisler Park into a skateboard arena.

The committee was told to report back to the council by March.

Some residents predict a row if the council selects either Main Beach or Heisler Park.

City Clerk Verna L. Rollinger said she remembers when a large, contemporary metal sculpture was temporarily erected at Main Beach in the early 1980s.

"We nearly had a civil war," she said.

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