Nearly a year after it was announced that the Brandon Koch Memorial Skate Park would relocate from Starr Avenue to Donelly Park, the revamped skaters' paradise opened to the public Friday afternoon. An upwards of 60 children, teens and adults took their wheels to the pavement in celebration of a new place to skate, and they weren’t disappointed.
“I’ve been waiting ever since they started building it, and it’s awesome,” said Nikolas Salazar, who brought his bike out to the new skate park.
The skate park’s relocation comes after the Turlock City Council voted in August 2013 to move the park from Starr Avenue to Donnelly Park due to the sale of the land the park originally sat on.
Since construction began on the skate park in late August 2015, the opening date was pushed back multiple times due to unexpected setbacks, most of which involved poor weather conditions. Rainy weather delayed the opening first in March, postponing it until May. Additional storms in May pushed the opening date back to mid-summer, and the skate park eventually was able to be completed this week.
“My reaction was ‘finally!’” said Kevin Lovejoy, who kept in close contact with the City of Turlock during the skate park’s construction so that he would be prepared for its completion. Lovejoy was friends with Brandon Koch, who the skate park was renamed after in 2013.
The skate park’s new name came a year after the avid skateboarder passed away from adrenocortical cancer. Brandon was an advocate for skateboarding as a way to get young people to participate in an active lifestyle. The decorative granite monument and special skateboard plaque — made by Brandon’s longtime friend Kameron Schumann— that stood in memoriam at the park’s old location will travel to Donnelly Park as well.
“I think Brandon would dig the new park,” said Lovejoy. “It’s got more obstacles for street skaters, and that’s what Brandon was.”
The new skate park’s design includes some elements from the old park and includes rails, stairs and manual pads. Through the incorporation of different aspects of parks around the region, the new skate park offers skaters a unique experience. It offers 28 skating elements, an Americans with Disabilities Act compliant drinking fountain, park identification sign, security lights, security camera, shade trees, benches, a picnic area, a portable restroom and trash receptacles.
Brandon’s sister, Nicke Koch, made it out to the park with her son Sebastian, who was able to try out some ramps at the skate park named after his uncle.
“I think Brandon would be happy to see this,” said Nicke. “He was always talking about how kids needed more things to do here. He would be out there tearing it up with them.”
Turlock City Council District 2 candidate Jaime Franco stopped by the new location, and hopes that something similar can be constructed on the city’s west side.
“I would like to see something like this built in my district,” he said. “It doesn’t exactly have to be this big, but just something for kids to do instead of graffiti and getting into trouble. This is a well-built facility, and having this place for children to hang out and socialize is great.”
A grand opening ceremony is expected to take place sometime in September, according to parks department Superintendent Erik Schulze. The soft opening proved to be successful, as riders rolled and jumped their scooters, bikes, skateboards and longboards over the many obstacles of the park.
“We’ve been waiting for this for so long, so it’s great to be able to get out here,” said Lovejoy.