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San Jose Mercury News (CA)

September 14th, 2011
Section: Editorial
Edition: Valley Final
Page: 14A
By: Paul Murphy

Lake Cunningham Regional Skate Park in San Jose is the premier skate park in California and an amazing place. The 68,000 square foot facility is my favorite oxymoron, a "family skate park." Collecting meager fees, city staff maintains the facility, enforces pad and helmet rules and provides lessons and events, creating a healthy environment for kids and adults.

Unfortunately, the proposed budget in June would ha eliminated staffing, ended popular night sessions and might have fenced up this resource to wither away. Kids would return to the streets to compete with cars while they skated, and another San Jose treasure would be lost. Welcome to the New Normal. The New Normal is one where government revenues are low and expected to stay that way for the foreseeable future, where expenses are undeniably high, where saving anything nonessential requires much more work than ever before. As San Jose works to maintain adequate levels of police and fire protection, the rest of us can do even more to support important things like parks, libraries and other opportunities for kids to be active and socialize in a safe environment.

We all must roll up our sleeves and become part of the cost recovery solution. That is what has happened in the case of the skate park. Thanks to the leadership of Councilwoman Rose Herrera, the park received a three-month stay of execution. It is open until October to give us time to organize, advocate and raise funds. Parks management is carefully reviewing staffing to identify ways to reduce costs; parents and skaters are collecting signatures and emails and are seeking corporate sponsors.

Time is running out, but we are hopeful that the City Council will recognize our efforts and the potential the skate park and Lake Cunningham have to become self-sufficient. We need minor temporary funding to allow us to implement the marketing plan. Besides just asking for money, we are arranging a parent docent program to support staff, planning continued fundraisers and helping out market the park to families within San Jose and throughout California.

My older son, Harrison, absolutely loves to skateboard; it is clearly his passion in life, and I would be foolish not to support it as long as he wears a helmet and maintains his grades. Lake Cunningham offers our family a safe place for him and his friends to learn new tricks and push themselves physically and mentally. Both my sons have developed strong friendships with children around the city and elsewhere at the skate park. They have been mentored in their skating by adults who remind them to keep their grades up and push for harder, higher tricks, and they have developed the relationships with park staff that the city hoped for. The line staff of the park is a group of hardworking, friendly young people who do an excellent job. To see for yourself, come out on Sept. 24 for the Tim Brauch Bowl Completion. The Tim Brauch Memorial Fund was established to promote skateboarding as a safe, healthy and fun activity, as well as provide cities with money, tools and knowledge to create proper skateboard parks. (www.timbrauch.org) Come see some amazing skating and check out Lake Cunningham so you can bring your kids back to skate or BMX. I guarantee you will be impressed.

Welcome to the New Normal. If each of us works to preserve services most important to us, our city will emerge from the Great Recession stronger and healthier. PAUL MURPHY is the parent of two San Jose skateboarders. Donations to maintain Lake Cunningham Skate Park can be made through the city of San Jose Parks Foundation (select Lake Cunningham Skate Par form the list). He wrote this for this newspaper.

San Jose Mercury News (CA)
The best civic gifts of 2011

December 24th, 2011
Section: Editorial
Edition: Valley Final

Nothing makes us appreciate things more than learning we're in danger of losing them. So on this fourth Christmas of celebrating the best civic gifts of the year past, we're grateful that three very different institutions have been saved -- in each case because individuals who care stepped up to help.

They are:

  • The Mexican Heritage Plaza, which has been groping for a clear identity and business plan since it opened in 1999.
  • Lake Cunningham Regional Skate Park, the largest in the state, which was about to fall victim to San Jose's budget ax.
  • And finally -- you had to see this coming -- Christmas in the Park, that wonderful retro treasure unique to San Jose, which also could have
        been doomed by budget cuts.
  • Throughout its 32-year history, Christmas in the Park has won the devotion of thousands of families, perhaps half a million people a year, who flock to downtown San Jose to see -- oh, it's indescribable, you just have to go. It is rich in volunteers, but just six months ago it was more than $350,000 short of cash to pay for the month long production after the city was forced to reduce its contribution.

    An Angel was needed, and it turned out to be a composite. Then Carl Guardino of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group teamed with Councilman Sam Liccardo and Mayor Chuck Reed to persuade some of the valley's heavy hitters to step up, and many did. The Downtown Association of course was a partner.

    The skate park rescue is a work in progress, but thanks to Councilwoman Rose Herrera and parent volunteers like Paul Murphy, its prognosis is good. Advertising opportunities are huge at this wonderful park, which draws skateboarders from all over California and beyond.

    Finally, the Mexican Heritage Plaza, whose rescue through the hard work of a community task force led by Connie Martinez of 1stACT Silicon Valley took well over a year. It is reborn as the School of Arts and Culture at MHP and modeled on the nonprofit Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View, a wonderful school that helps fill the gap left as many public schools all but abandon the arts. The plaza school led by Tamara Alvarado is off to a great start, drawing kids largely from surrounding East Side neighborhoods, which is terrific. If it does not succeed, we'll at least know the most promising idea for the plaza got a chance.

    Gifts we've celebrated in the past keep on giving. Friends of the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden keep it in the condition that won a best-in-nation award in 2010. Federal money to help turn Mount Umunhum into a park has dried up, but the Midpeninsula Open Space District is moving ahead with plans. And last year's celebrants, PACT and the Preservation Action Council of San Jose, continue their good work.

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