Bend skatepark offers quick outdoors fix

Lunchtime sesh at new park takes advantage of warm days

By David Jasper / The Bulletin

Last Thursday, the weather was about as warm, sunny and pleasantly springlike as you could expect for early April in Central Oregon. With highs in the 60s, it was hard to believe it’d been less than two weeks since the April 1 blizzard (well, it felt to some of us like a blizzard), an event that spawned something in the neighborhood of 9,832 local tweets, Instagram photos and Facebook posts, all attempting to wed the weather to April Fool’s Day jokes.

Just a matter of days later, the weather was perfect for being outdoors, but I had plenty of work to catch up on after taking a long weekend to snowboard and hike in western Wyoming.

There are plenty of options to get a fresh-air fix in the Bend area: a lunchtime mountain bike ride at Phil’s Trail; or, it’s getting warm enough to get your kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard in the water, or rent or borrow one. Another option: Hike or run with your favorite dog on a stretch of Deschutes River Trail. From Meadow Camp upstream, dogs are still allowed off-leash through May 14. However, May 15-Sept. 15, they need to be leashed or you may face a fine.

I settled on a lunchtime jaunt to east Bend’s Ponderosa Park Skatepark, a more up-to-date design replacing the old Ponderosa Skatepark at the north end of the park. Completed this winter, the park’s terrain and features would appeal to anyone who can ride a skateboard: small banks, mogul-like “pump bumps,” quarterpipes, stairs, “hubbas” (sloped ledges), handrails, even a pair of small wavelike banks that echo one of the larger features in the old park.

Despite those amenities, I, falling squarely into the aging skateboarder category, hadn’t yet ridden there, even though it opened a few months ago.

On Wednesday, I sent a couple of texts and posted on Facebook a call for skaters I knew around town asking them to join me for a short lunchtime sesh — that’s a skateboarding session in the parlance.

Alex Bolonde, Gordon Boehm and Gabe Triplette answered the call. Bolonde is a house painter who was making bids that day, Boehm manages the Bend-based online skate shops The Longboard Store and The Skateboard Store, and Triplette is the guy who’s likely taught your children to skate if you’ve ever signed them up for lessons. With last weekend’s closure of Bend’s longtime indoor skatepark The Truckstop, where Triplette gave instruction, he was taking a break from building a new indoor skate space on the north end of town, Bearings Skateboard Academy.

The three seasoned riders made good on the short sesh, with Bolonde pulling, among other tricks, his trademark backside disasters — a backside ollie, or hands-free air, in which he turns 180 degrees and lands midboard on the coping, then pops back in and rides down the transition, or “tranny” again in the parlance (really).

Boehm, who rides with an enviable grace as though he was born riding a skateboard (not, by the way, recommended by health professionals) was pulling frontside rock ’n’ rolls, frontside smith grinds and other moves with so much style and finesse that he makes them look easy. They’re not. Trust me. I have fallen or bailed attempting both tricks more times than I’ve made them.

Triplette can seemingly do anything he wants on a board, including ollies on a very narrow stone feature at the top of the street skating plaza. It’s no wonder it’s not just his students who sometimes call him “coach.” Several times over the years I’ve skated with him, he’s offered this rider some insightful kernel of advice that made the difference in landing whatever trick I was attempting.

The 8,000-square-foot skatepark also boasts a 4,000-square-foot skatepath with two quarterpipes. A crowded skatepark can seem like a coral reef of activity with everyone crossing paths, and one smart feature was to put the halfpipe and quarterpipes at the outer edges to curb the possibility of collisions.

What we had all to ourselves for the first few minutes slowly began to fill with more riders, including a BMX bike rider.

According to Matt Mercer, director of recreation services for Bend Park & Recreation District, bikes and scooters are being allowed at the park on a trial basis.

He also mentioned that the old skatepark will remain in place for now.

“The hope is that the skatepark can remain for a longer period of time, and if it does, we can reinvest some money into it and bring it into better condition than it’s in now,” he said.

The park closed for the weekend and part of Monday while workers did finishing work that required warm weather, including caulking of joints. While seams aren’t necessarily noticeable to riders, sealing them was critical to the longevity of the concrete.

Finally, he mentioned that the turf, landscaping and irrigation work the district will be doing to complete the southern end of Ponderosa Park should be done by July and shouldn’t interfere with skating.

After about 30 minutes of riding, we parted company to attend the rest of our Thursday.

Asked for a quote as things were winding down, Bolonde said, “Just put something like, ‘It was a beautiful day in Central Oregon.’”

It was. I’m already planning my next lunchtime escape. Who’s with me?

— Reporter: 541-383-0349, djasper@bendbulletin.com

If you go

Getting there: Ponderosa Park, 225 S.E. 15th St., Bend. The skatepark is located at the south end of the park. The entrance to the south parking lot is off Wilson Avenue.

Difficulty: Depends on the rider’s abilities. The park’s smooth concrete surface will appeal to anyone from beginner to expert.

Cost: Free.

Contact: info@bendparksandrec.org or 541-389-7275.