Skaters Call to Save Silvo Skate Park

By: 
RJ Singh
CHRISTOPHER MONTEMAYOR in a frontside feeble grind. He says that the Silvo community is so close that skaters will recognize new faces immediately and those new faces return.

Silverado “Silvo” Skate Park is a local sanctuary for many skaters. But this summer, it will need the support of city officials and community funding in order to save it from becoming an unusable skate park. 

In West Long Beach’s only skate park, Silverado “Silvo” Skate Park, riders are kissed by the sweltering sun.

They also share moments of stillness, spectating as their friends skate the wooden pyramid with a gaping hole in it. 

Silvo isn’t an original creation. Instead, its elements came from Michael K. Green Skate Park, donations from Dew Tour and the legendary Bixby “Cherry” Skate Park. 

Silvo is the only recycled skate park in the country.

“We [skaters] honestly have to fix stuff ourselves, sometimes we even have to duct tape stuff,” said Silvo regular Christopher Montemayor, 24. “We even bring stuff there so that we can skate it.”

Whether or not life has Montemayor down, he skates Silvo with music rattling his insides: frontside feeble grind, bail and repeat. He also owns and runs Silvo’s Instagram account, @silveradoskatepark. Montemayor says that he wanted to create the opportunity to celebrate all skaters.

But behind the celebrations, Silvo slowly falls apart. In one instance, Montemayor says that contorted pieces of metal plates on ramps tend to chip new boards at the park. 

“If at any point that plate starts to move when your board’s coming back down, I’ve chipped boards on those plates many times,” said Silvo skater and photographer Jon Nakamura, 34. “So those are issues that you wouldn’t have with concrete, like exposed screws, screws coming loose and panels coming off.”

Nakamura has been skating since the ‘90s, but he says that newcomers require a certain awareness of the conditions of Silvo in order to avoid getting seriously hurt. 

Yet Montemayor and other skaters try to put every obstacle to use. “That’s what skating is about, being creative,” Montemayor said.

Nearly all of Silvo’s ramps were assembled from wood and screws, but the wood’s deterioration is a byproduct of the force brought on by skaters and weather conditions over the years.

“The park needs to be done in concrete because as you can see, these wooden ramps are full of holes,” Silvo skater Ritchie Rojas, 29, said. “For a lot of the kids that are learning here, it’s pretty unsafe, it’s really sketchy.”

Rojas began skating at 8-years-old, coming from the era of “sponsor me” tapes in the ‘90s and ‘00s and today’s short edits for Instagram. Silvo has a very mellow atmosphere, Rojas says, but he wonders how crowded the skate park will get once it reopens. 

Like Rojas, Silvo skater Alchie Lesaca, 28, calls for Silvo to be extended towards the inner direction of Silverado Park, an unused area, to allow for “more space, more running room.”  

Rojas and Lesaca’s version of the park is not included in the concrete reimagining. 

This summer, the redesign will go through the Parks and Recreation Commission and City Council approval before the foundation and partners are shovel ready. Additionally, the privately paid reimagining will cost $137,600 for the foundation that’s funding. And it’s raised less than $1,000 since April 2021. 

Action Sports Kids (ASK) Foundation is behind the restoration of Silvo. “You give me a troubled kid, I’ll throw a skateboard under their feet and make a difference in their life,” said ASK Foundation Founder and Executive Director Mike Donelon.

With the rubber stamp of LBUSD and LBPD, ASK Foundation says its success rate is 100%. 

Donelon’s appreciation for skateboarding started with his first board in ‘63, “a piece of wood with wheels,” and his son’s passion for the sport in the ‘80s. 

Donelon recalls one Sunday afternoon as a councilmember in the late ‘90s when he received a phone call to his home. It was from an angry resident, raving about kids ruining his property. 

The councilmember suspected gangbangers, but to his surprise, they were skaters.

Nearly 30 years later, 69-year-old Donelon vividly remembers one of the skaters at the scene: an 8-year-old boy that got up close and personal with Donelon as the boy looked up at him. “You’re a bigshot, aren’t you?,” the boy said. “Why don’t you build us a skate park?” 

Changes within the Long Beach skate park community grew out of Donelon’s ‘92 Chevy Suburban and the vision of young skaters. The result was the opening of Long Beach’s first skate park, El Dorado, in 2000. 

After spending thousands of his own money on the foundation, switching to 501(c)(3) status in 2010 and seven generations of skaters, Donelon has helped open nine skate parks in Long Beach. 

Silvo’s reimagining will be the first project of its kind for this skate community.

”There are a lot of new skate parks around Long Beach that are getting redone when they’re already good,” Montemayor said. “Why not fix a skate park that’s recycled rather than adding more to a park that’s already good?”

To make a donation for Silvo’s restoration, visit asklongbeach.org.

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