THE HISTORY OF SKATING IN GOLDEN GATE PARK
Skating is a long-standing tradition in Golden Gate Park. In 1891 the Park Commission to allocate $1,000 for John McLaren to build a skating rink at the Children’s Playground. A small smooth oval was constructed around what is now the play structure area.
With the Sunday closure of JFK starting in 1969 and the adaptation of polyurethane to skate wheels, skating has flourished in the park since the mid 70’s. Sundays the park will host hundreds and sometimes thousands of skates on JFK. In the late 70’s and early 80’s a dozen or so panel trucks would line Fulton and Lincoln renting skates by the hour. Tensions developed between the skaters and pedestrians in the park and the Skate Patrol was founded to control and assist skaters and nonskaters in the park. For 25 years, Golden Gate Park on Sunday was THE place to skate in northern California.
But for the other six days of the week, skating in the Park has been a difficult matter. To not impact pedestrians and because freestyle skating in not a here to there sport, skaters for 25 years have sought a safe space to dance. Initially, the south crescent of pavement next to the Bandshell was THE place on weekdays. Then skating in this area was banned and the skaters moved to the sidewalk on north side of the bridge on JFK at 9th Ave. In ’86, 6th Ave was closed to traffic and though the surface has only for brief periods been smooth, this has been the location for freestyle skating in the San Francisco.
The surface of 6th Ave. was initially crushed stone quarried at what is now Quarry Lake. When closed in ’86 the surface was a old seal coat of asphalt sprayed on and then gravel spread and rolled in. As the road was crumbling, in ’92 the surface was given an initial slurry coat with materials left over from tennis court repairs, and a second coat with funds donated by a skater. In the summer of ’97 under direction of John Huntinger, 6th Ave was finally paved with an asphalt overlay. Though the contractor has problems with breakdowns and material,the surface was the best skaters had experienced in the park.
But then in March of ’99 the infrastructure improvements to the park required a 10’ trench be dug down the middle of 6th and a manhole cover placed directly at the top of the street. The 10’ strip was replaced with a smooth surface, but the 10’ of street on either side remained gouged from the construction and the transition between the old and new has left an edge which daily trips skaters. The manhole cover was paved over, but subsequently chopped out and when patched a raised area remained posing an additional hazard December 20, '99 the entire surface was give another overlay, and then two days later again slurry sealed. Though there are some problems with ripples due to the vibrator on the roller, the surface is back in form and again THE place to skate.
Though 6th Ave. is THE place to skate in San Francisco, it serves many other uses. On most mornings, groups from the neighborhood meet for formal exercise classes. On afternoons, parents will bring their children to 6th to learn to ride a bicycle out of traffic. 6th Ave is one of the only spots in Golden Gate Park where a flat surface can be found away from pedestrians and auto traffic.
With over one hundred years of skating in the park, it must be assumed that skating will continue to be a major activity in Golden Gate Park.
THE SKATING SCENE IN THE PARK TODAY! ______________________________ WHAT 6TH. AVE SHOULD BE SOMEDAY!