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Before the freshly-cut ribbon signifying the grand opening of the Napa Skate Park hit the ground Saturday afternoon, dozens of skaters flooded into the new park — eager to be among the first to try out the long-awaited facility at Kennedy Park.

“This place is so much better compared to the old park,” said Alberto Cuevas of Napa, referring to the 14,000-square-foot park located on Clinton Street in downtown Napa. “There’s just more. More ledges, more rails, more everything. My brother and I were going to the old park about once a week. But now that this place is open, we’ll try to get here as often as we can.”

The new park, located south of the synthetic multi-use soccer field at Kennedy Park, is 30,000 square feet, making it one of the largest in the Bay Area, according to designer Zach Wormhoudt. The park, which cost $1.4 million to construct, includes ramps, bowls, benches as well urban elements such as rails and stairs. The park is open to bicycles and scooters in addition to skateboards, creating an inviting place for novice and advanced skaters.

“This place is awesome,” said Melissa McGoldrick, after emerging from one of the skating bowls. “I have a lot of good memories at the old park, but this place is giant. I want to come here every day. This is what we’ve been waiting for.”

The city of Napa consulted with local skaters to create a concept for the park that would please skaters of every skill level. Since the final plan was approved by the city council in January, McGoldrick and her friends have been eagerly waiting for the park to finally open.

McGoldrick, who has been skating for three years, was just one of the few females skaters who came to the park’s grand opening. She said she hopes more girls will take an interest in skating now that the park is open.

The park was designed to offer challenging elements such as bowls for skilled skaters as well as basic elements such as ramps for skaters who are just finding their footing. But on Saturday, the park was a free-for-all as people of all ages took laps around the new park on skateboards, BMX bikes and scooters. Some skaters didn’t hesitate slipping into the flow of activity following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, but others waited for the right moment, like a surfer stalking a wave, before joining the flurry of excitement.

Under a cloudless sky, skaters tested the park, trying tricks and flips. There were a few wipe-outs and a few runaway boards, but there appeared to be a mutual respect between the skaters, bikers and scooter riders as they explored the park.

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“It’s cool to see so many people here,” said skater Bayley Lorenzen. “This place is awesome. I can’t think of anything else that I’d want to add to it. This will be a good place for skaters to practice.”

Lorenzen and his friend, Nicholas Medina, have been skating for four years. They said they are aware of the stigma that sometimes follows skaters, but to them, skating is more of an art form.

“Skating is a sport that offers true freedom,” Medina said. “You don’t’ have a coach. You go out there and you try things. You fail, a lot, but you get up and keep going. You find your own style. Skating becomes an extension of yourself. The movements, it’s like your painting a picture.”

Lorenzen agreed. “We board because it’s fun. It’s a chance to get away from everything and just let loose. You lose yourself in it, and it’s almost like therapy. There’s nothing like it. It’s hard to describe. Skating is more of a feeling than just something that kids do.”

Kennedy Park is at 2295 Streblow Drive in Napa. Napa Skate Park is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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Online Editor/Calendar Editor

Samie Hartley is the Napa Valley Register online editor. Her column Simple & Sassy runs on alternating Sundays.

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