The youth of Albuquerque's Los Altos Skate Park will have a chance to turn the park they love and frequent so much, not only into a functional mural but also into a chance to build their resume.
Through the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), New Mexico Extreme Sports (NMX Sports) recently acquired a grant for $150,00 to renovate, repair and beautify the existing skate park in the Northeast Heights but will accomplish it by using the youths of the skate park community to mind the details.
"What we want to do is recruit kids who actually use the park to do the restoration, so that they take ownership and take pride in their park," said Eddie Vargas, director of NMX Sports and Warehouse 508. "It's important because through the process they will not only receive various certifications, but they will also learn valuable, transferrable skills."
Executive Director of YCC Wendy Kent stated the grant proposal was a shoo-in for acceptance given the track record of NMX Sports, their continued work with Albuquerque youths and the integration of youth education in the project.
"Our purpose (at YCC) is to employ young people in public projects that benefit their community and natural resources ... NMX Sports' proposal addressed all criteria required," Kent said.
The 15-year-old skate park is just like any other teenager. It gets messy, it gets dirty, it gets heavy use, takes its nicks, takes a beating and keeps on going. It may be rough around the edges, but many evidently love it just the same.
Albuquerque's oldest skate park certainly has seen better days, specifically the day that it opened. Immediately thereafter it entered into a life of destruction, decomposition and abuse. These may be harsh words, but it is the nature of a skate park.
"Due to deterioration, vandalism and violence, Los Altos has become the focus of a lot of negative attention," Vargas said. "Skate-park users already have a bit of a negative stereotype, and it's not necessarily the users of the park that create the negative atmosphere but those that hang out on the fringe."
Vargas and NMX Sports along with the City of Albuquerque Parks and Recreation Department want to change the black-sheep stereotype of skate parks by cleaning up the park, landscaping and adding certain amenities to increase its appeal for potential new users.
"It's not major construction or destruction of the park," said Kristy Diaz-Trahan, recreation manager for Albuquerque Parks and Recreation, "but we want to be sure the kids at least have a functional water fountain and bathrooms that can't be tipped over."
In addition to increasing the curb appeal of the park, Vargas said that by installing the large mural, it will separate the park from those located around the country providing Los Altos with a landmark identity.
"Placing the mural in the bowls will give Los Altos a unique look. When videos are filmed there, kids will see them and say, 'Oh that's Los Altos, I want to go there,'" Vargas said.
Local skateboarder Jonathan Sedillo has skated at Los Altos for over 16 years and said although the park may be a bit rundown, it is something that most skaters come to expect of their park. "If you can't ride it then don't come here," Sedillo said jokingly.
"I skated here before it even opened. I've built a family here. We all have gotten used to it, but if they want to improve it then that's great, we'll ride it then too, Sedillo said.