In the 1970s skateboarding was quite the rage in Southern California. There was street skating, and the ever-popular pool skating, but no place said skating like the Pipeline in Upland. Last October the city of Upland held grand opening ceremonies in Memorial Park for the opening of an updated version of the Upland Pipeline skatepark that was open from 1977-1988, and was the world's first vertical skatepark. The park is called "Pipeline" because it boasts a 22-foot full pipe, which is a unique feature among parks today. Along with the full pipe, the park includes a 12-foot bowl, a street course with rails, funbox, banks, a 14-foot half pipe and a pyramid. It is also lighted.
In 1977 when the park opened originally, it was privately owned in an unincorporated area of the city and was closed because of liability issues.
"When I was 14-years-old, I was doing hand plants and board slides in the corners at the original Upland park," said skater Bill Wahl. "The only reason I was able to skate vert was because the terrain I learned on was demanding."
The Upland Community Foundation, a non-profit organization spearheaded the resurgence of a skatepark in the city a few years ago. The demand for the park was there and UCF said they were willing to do some fund raising to get a park like some of the surrounding cities. The Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs all donated money and local businesses chipped in either through money donations or through donating supplies and equipment.
"One company donated rebar and a local concrete company donated $10,000 of ready-mix concrete," said Tom Lindley, City of Upland Public Works Inspector and Project Manager for the Pipeline project. "Our police chief's brother is a grading contractor and he donated all of the excavation and grading and a local electrician donated all the electrical labor."
Lindley added that through cash donations the UCF was able to purchase the electrical hardware and gave the city a check to offset some of its cost. The city put up the first $40,000 for the job according to Lindley, and that covered enhanced costs.
"To recognize the donors a granite donor wall was constructed and it is lit out in front of the park," Lindley said. "This whole thing snowballed. When contractors heard that others were donating they wanted to be counted in as well. It got to the point where contractors were coming by and asking how they could help."
One such instance occurred when a 10-inch water line needed to be relocated and a backhoe/construction firm came in and said they'd donate the labor if the city bought the materials, and the water line was relocated.
"From a construction standpoint this project was challenging," Lindley said. "For a city to coordinate donated labor and donated materials with a contract for the majority of the project it was challenging to keep everything on time and on budget. It got sticky at points but we pulled it off."
Much of skatepark design in recent years has catered to the street skater, but the timing of this has been welcomed by many skaters who are looking for a new challenge, such as ramps, bowls, and of course the very rare full pipe.
Back in the 1970s concrete skateparks were usually flawed in some way, with a weird bump or an unusual kink, but with the new Upland park, reports from those who have ridden it, it's perfect.
At the opening of the new park the Hoffman family who owned the original Pipeline park made an appearance to take photos and hand out original stickers from the first Pipeline. Also several professional skaters made an appearance to skate the first session. Omar Hassan, Lance Mountain and Mickey Alba all took part in the session.
"The key to the project was meeting with the local youth, with the idea of reproducing the old Pipleline," said Steve Rose, Principal at Purkiss-Rose RSI in Fullerton, Calif. who helped design the park. "We tried to make it as authentic as the original."
According to Lindley, the park has 12,300 square feet of skateable surface and another 4,000 feet of plaza.
"We added some enhancements after the project got started," Lindley said. "It was very obvious that we were going to have extra dirt. We imported some to the site and then we had to excavate the bowl and pipe area creating a lot of extra fill. Instead of exporting that dirt I got my public works director to allow me to level out another area of the park because this area is semi-elevated."
Rose said that only the Pipeline section of the park is modeled after the original park and there is more of a street skating element to it now.
"We had three workshops where a lot younger kids participated," he said. "That had to do with preliminary ideas that we revised until we came to a consensus on everything."
Rose added that bringing kids into the design process is viewed as a "mixed bag."
"People always wonder why kids are involved," he said. "You don't have amateur golfers designing golf courses. That's why we also bring the pros in."
Professional skaters were involved in the design process and Steve Alba who was instrumental in designing skateparks in the 1970s was also brought in to lend his expertise.
"We had plenty of talent to make sure that no matter what the input is we make that into a good design," Rose said. "Sometimes these kids come up with some really good ideas."
On the north side of the skatepark, an area was leveled out and concrete pads and walks along with three sets of bleachers were installed, making it very spectator friendly.
"The spectator area was in the plaza and you couldn't see what was going on in the bowl," Lindley said. "I put in a handicapped accessible sidewalk around the outside of the park so that even a person in a wheelchair can go all the way around the outside of the park."
He added that there is wheelchair parking next to the bleachers. All spectators are outside of an eight-foot high wrought iron fence, protecting observers from flying boards and it helps with security.
The Full Pipe
There are two bowls at either end of the full pipe, creating what skaters call a "trannie" experience. Dropping in on wither one of the bowls will lead to the pipe and out the other side to the second bowl where other vertical tricks can be done.
The pipe lies on a slight downgrade, making it extremely fast about halfway through the ride.
Skaters can also attempt to skate up the side of the full pipe. This is known as the "oververt" section.
There is a street element to this park, which makes it so appealing to so many. A seven-stair set-up with a rail and an 11-stair set-up with rail, that many street skaters had a tough time conquering. Also a part of the park is an area with rails, benches and ledges.
"A skateboard park should offer something for every level of skater as well as every style of skater and every style of skating," said five-time World Champion Andy Macdonald. "That means having ramps and street obstacles as well as bowls and snake runs."
An important element of any skatepark is the inclusion of signage at the park. The signage explains that skaters are riding the park at their own risk.
In the early 1990s, the city of Huntington Beach, Calif. was a pioneer in the development of skateparks. The city clearly posts rules and regulations that include a warning about safety. According to Bill Fowler of the city's Parks and Recreation Dept. not a single lawsuit has been filed against the city because of injuries.
The park is open from 10 am until 10 pm, and during non-school hours anywhere from 30-50 kids are at the park according to Lindley. In the morning an inspection is done of the park and at night a person comes by and clears out the skaters and shuts off all the lights except for security lights.
Like any good skatepark there is signage in place warning users about the risks inherent with skateboarding.
"It's part of a state assembly bill that was passed limiting a city's liability," Lindley said. "All the proper verbiage is on the sign."
Pads and helmets are required for all persons inside the fenced area and the signage at this park describes the proper equipment needed at the park.
Lindley said the people using the full pipe are mostly "old-school" skaters who grew up at the original park and they always were full pads. It's the younger street skaters who have a hard time.
"You could draw a line down the middle of the park with one half being street and the other half being old school," he said. "The street course kids refuse to wear their gear and cops have to hand out tickets."
He said the first offense is a $100 fine. While the city doesn't want to over regulate the park the kids need to know this is for their own good. Ironically San Antonio Hospital is right next door to the park.
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