Bellingham’s growing skate community has found a new spot to skate. Skaters have been shaping a do-it-yourself skatepark under the East Chestnut Street bridge on the outskirts of downtown Bellingham.
While not technically a city park yet, this skatepark is on its way to becoming another piece to the puzzle that is Bellingham’s revamped waterfront.
This new skate spot comes as a relief to many local skaters who feel that Bellingham’s only official skatepark at the Civic Athletic Complex doesn’t offer what they are looking for.
“Our skatepark is kinda gnar,” said Zack Garza, local skater and owner of Unknown Board Shop in Bellingham. “The old middle section was built by construction workers, not skatepark builders ... I've been skating my whole life, and that [bowl] is hard to skate.”
There are multiple styles of skateboarding present at most skateparks: skating “transition” or “vert” as it is often called, is skating in spaces like bowls or half pipes. Skaters drop down into vertical declines that transition to horizontal ground and back again, hence the names.
Another style prevalent at skateparks is street skating, which originated from skating along city streets while utilizing stairs, ledges and railings to do tricks.
At the Bellingham Skatepark, the combination of poorly done construction work on the transition section mixed with difficult terrain is unappealing, particularly to beginner skaters, Garza said.
Garza has been skating in Washington’s skateparks for 36 years. He’s had his eye on the spot under Chestnut bridge for 20 years. Once the waterfront began opening up for recreational use, he came down to the space to clear out trash and other obstacles to make it usable for skaters.
Since then, the covered area has become a growing hub for Bellingham skaters. A collection of small wooden ramps and boxes has been brought in and arranged into an unofficial skatepark, including a halfpipe.
This DIY skatepark has attracted local skaters to its movable features that create a more dynamic park.
“I first went to the Bellingham skatepark because that was the only one I knew,” Eli Hendricks, a local skater, said. “After finding the DIY, that was my main spot from there on.”
Despite the new park being loosely thrown together, it has advantages that aren't offered at the Bellingham Skatepark.
“I definitely prefer the DIY [park], especially because in the winter up here, the DIY is the only covered spot in town,” Hendricks said.
Since there is constant rainfall for much of the year, the coverage that the bridge provides sets this makeshift park apart from the other skateparks in Bellingham.
This feeling is felt across the West Coast of Washington in places like Seattle.
“The most requested thing is a covered park for skateboarding in the Northwest,” said Tony Croghan, manager at 35th North Skate Shop in Seattle.
The goal of this new park in Bellingham is also to provide beginners with a more usable park than the Bellingham Skatepark.
“Look how many people there are that are attracted to skateboarding and would do it if there were the stepping stones,” Garza said. “That’s why this skatepark has to be extra special to help people work their way up.”
Over the last two years, there have been plans in the works to turn this space into a fully-fledged skatepark.
In the Port of Bellingham’s efforts to revitalize the waterfront, they have talked with Garza and the city of Bellingham to bring this project to life.
“For the proposed skate park, the Port is very supportive of the idea,” Mike Hogan, the public affairs administrator for the Port of Bellingham, said in an email.
Garza said the issue is that the lot the park sits on is owned by the city and not the Port. As a result, the skatepark got added to the city’s list of proposed projects and hasn't budged.
“The city has its own things to battle,” Garza said. “Another skatepark isn't very high on the list, even though ours is pretty outdated.”
This isn't the only new skatepark coming to the Bellingham area. The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Board recently awarded the city of Ferndale a grant for $480,000 to build a 10,000-foot skatepark that is 14 minutes from downtown Bellingham.
Construction for this project, Metalworks Skate Park, is set to begin in 2022, bringing yet another resource to skaters in the area.
Metalworks Skate Park will have transition and street style aspects designed for all abilities from beginner to advanced, something the Bellingham skatepark lacks according to Garza.
The excitement around these new projects comes not only from skateboarders but the rest of the community as well, depicting a changing perspective on skating as a whole.
“At this point enough of society likes skateboarding now,” Garza said. “They used to not like skateboarding, now they like us. We’re in the Olympics now.”
Finlay Morrison is a reporter for The Front and a third-year journalism student. He focuses on local sports and WWU athletics.