Friday, August 14, 2009

GOT WOOD!!!, Oakland BMX Park needs HELP!!!

By Cecily Burt
Oakland Tribune

Shane Sischo, left, and Adam Keaton apply the final touches to a ramp for the BayAir Skatepark,...«123»When Adam Keaton started riding BMX, he quickly found out there were few places in Oakland or Berkeley to ride his stunt bike and improve his skills. After saving up $1,000 to attend the Woodward West BMX and skate camp in Tehachapi in 2008, he was determined to change that.

And so he is.

Keaton, 18, a senior at Berkeley High, and Shane Sischo, at 30 a grizzled, banged-up BMX veteran who was Keaton's camp counselor, can be found most days toiling with power tools and sheets of half- and three-quarter-inch plywood at a gritty empty lot on Myrtle Street off West Grand Avenue that one day soon will become BayAir Bike and Skate Park.

Keaton signed the lease on the property and then contacted Sischo, an experienced builder of skate parks, with his ideas. The older man offered to help and has since relocated to West Oakland. The series of ramps, bowls and platforms will be suited for BMX bikes, skateboards and Rollerblades, Keaton said.

"I've had this in my head for several years," Keaton said. "I thought about trying to get grants, but it was taking too long."

The construction activity started in May and has attracted the interest of neighbors, who are excited to see somebody building something positive for the kids. A few have come over to help out, and others have donated used decks — skateboards without wheels.

"Me and my dad were driving by and saw a ramp, and we ended up helping them," said Ben Vascones, 13, who

lives two blocks away. "I've been over a couple of times and helped them clean up and hold down pieces of wood while they nail it. It's exciting. I've never seen one being built before."

Ben is a skateboarder and said he's looking forward to the park opening in his neighborhood. Right now he has to go to parks in Alameda, Dublin, Berkeley and Concord.

His mom, Lhiza Llacer, said it's really great that something good is happening in West Oakland and that Ben is getting involved.

The vacant lot, surrounded by chain link and razor wire, has been a blight in the neighborhood for years. Keaton said his mom is supportive of the park but admits she initially was concerned about the neighborhood.

He and Sischo had to clean out broken glass, trash and close to 140 used needles before they could even start building. They've posted a large wooden sign urging people to stay out because of liability issues. Another sign posted below urges everyone to keep it a "drug-free" zone.

The inhabitant of a ramshackle camper parked out front is keeping an eye on the place, and so far Sischo has only had to chase out two skateboarders who were having a great time riding one night.

"That's one of the most difficult things, telling people, 'not yet, not yet,'" Sischo said.

Sischo said most skate parks are built by general contractors, and although they may be structurally sound, the course elements may not be the safest for riding because plywood layers are too thin, or the banks and ramps aren't flush, or the wrong screws or fasteners are used and riders end up getting gouged or their wheels get caught.

They've spent about $15,000 on lumber and materials so far, not including the lease and legal fees, and they need another $15,000 to $20,000 to finish. The park is being completed in stages — flurries of construction interrupted when they run out of money and have to work at real jobs until they can buy more lumber, Keaton said.

Keaton says he plans to open the park once he gets liability insurance, but they will continue to work on it.

"A permanent concrete park is just that — permanent. A wooden park, you can change it, so it will never be completely done," Sischo said.

"So people won't get bored," Keaton added

To donate money, lumber or sweat equity to help build the skate park, e-mail Reach Cecily Burt at 510-208-6441. Check out her blog at


Sean Donnelly/Staff
Shane Sischo, left, and Adam Keaton apply the final touches to a ramp Thursday for the BayAir Skatepark, which the duo has been building in a vacant lot in West Oakland. The two started work on the park, below, in late May and still need lumber to finish it.

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