Editor’s note, July 29, 3:30 p.m.: We’ve corrected the article to show that the Rocker Memorial Skatepark, a 501c3 organization, partnered with TDRPD, is working towards building an expansion skatepark (25,000 sq.ft.) to complement the existing park (7,000 sq.ft.). They have raised over $250,000 over the past 10 years through the support of the community and fundraising events. Rocker Memorial Skatepark is pursuing final funding for construction costs now that approval with the Town of Truckee Planning Commission has been achieved. With funding secured, the goal is to build the new skatepark during summer 2023.
Most summer days at the Truckee Skatepark are fairly calm, with cool breezes and blue skies. You’ll hear skateboard wheels roll and scrape on the concrete park. You’ll hear voices from skateboarders hyping each other up and sharing conversations in passing. And you’ll hear kids squealing while they play at the nearby playground. Not heard, but often seen, are swipes of bright graffiti and black spray-painted letters that cover the bowls of the skatepark, picnic tables, and surrounding structures.
Graffiti at the skatepark has become an issue in recent years, and many skateboarders are upset by the appearance of the park, claiming that the blame is being wrongly placed on them. Truckee-Donner Recreation and Park District staff is unsure of who is doing the graffitiing and is considering increasing security measures to sway would-be taggers. With a new local skatepark in the works, several local skateboarders worry that the graffiti happening in the current park may threaten the progression of the Rocker Memorial Skatepark.
Graffiti goes hand in hand with the counterculture that is prevalent within the skateboarding community. However, what is happening in Truckee is just the opposite. Local skaters who frequent the park suspect that the individuals responsible for tagging the skatepark are kids who come to the park at night and are not the usual daytime skateboarders.
“This park means a lot to us, so we try to keep it nice and show people what our community is about,” says local skateboarder Sander Brun. Skateboarders like Brun want to reclaim their reputation within the community and make it known that they do not condone graffiti in the skatepark.
At the end of June, the Truckee Skatepark was closed for graffiti removal by the Truckee-Donner Recreation and Park District. Ed Wangler, the TDRPD’s maintenance foreman, claims he has no idea who is responsible for the graffiti. Wangler says the graffiti has grown worse in the past couple of years: “We had to go in and remove small little ones [graffiti tags], but now that they’re huge we have to go to a bigger cleaning process.”
Brun, 20, and Duke Arnold, 19, have grown up skating at the skatepark. “I’ve spent my whole life here,” Brun says. “I’ve met amazing people here. This park has taught me life lessons.” Brun graduated from Truckee High School in 2020 and Arnold from North Tahoe High School in 2021. Both are now working in North Lake Tahoe.
Brun told Moonshine Ink that he started skating at the park when he was in eighth grade, and he considers it his second home. He’s frustrated to see the graffiti becoming an issue, he continued, because it does not reflect who the skaters are, nor does it align with Truckee/Tahoe community values. Brun describes the graffiti as someone “scribbling on the park” rather than creating art. He often makes a point to pick up garbage around the park after he finishes skating and does his best to make the park look nice.
Graffiti first started appearing at the skatepark in 2020, according to skateboarders and TDRPD alike. “It started as two little tags and then over the course of a year and a half, it’s turned into this,” Arnold said. “… I’m not trying to blame the [Town] of Truckee, but the Incline skatepark — I grew up skating there as well — I’ve seen it get tagged before and the tag is either removed or painted over in the same color as the concrete within the week.”
On June 21, the Town of Truckee approved an initial study/mitigated negative declaration for the new Rocker Memorial Skatepark. The Rocker Memorial Skatepark will neighbor the current skatepark, located at 10500 Brockway Rd., adjacent to the Truckee River Regional Park. Rocker Memorial Skatepark, a 501c3 organization, partnered with TDRPD, is working towards building an expansion skatepark (25,000 sqft) to complement the existing park (7,000 sqft). They have raised over $250,000 over the past 10 years through the support of the community and fundraising events. Rocker Memorial Skatepark is pursuing final funding for construction costs now that approval with the Town of Truckee Planning Commission has been achieved. With funding secured, the goal is to build the new skatepark during summer 2023.
Brun says, “We’ve been pushing for a new skatepark and the graffiti doesn’t help our case. I feel like when people come here and look at the skatepark, they’re like, oh, that looks awful … It would be very sad to see if we got a new park built and it got covered in awful graffiti.”
Chris Ondercin is a father of an 11-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter, and together they frequent the Truckee Skatepark. “Myself and others feel that we need to make a statement and tell the community that it’s not okay to graffiti at the Truckee skateboard park and the new one that we’re building is not going to be a giant open canvas for graffiti,” he says. “… I’m not opposed to graffiti; I’m just opposed to it in the skateboard parks.”
Ondercin says that although he doesn’t feel that there is a safety threat at the park, he feels that the graffiti sets a bad tone for his children and doesn’t align visually with what Tahoe and Truckee are all about.
Brun told Moonshine that the park does not reflect nor is held to the same standards that the rest of Truckee and Tahoe are held to. “We have a lot of nice facilities in Truckee,” he explains. “We have the pump track down the road that is a state-of-the-art bike pump track. We have awesome downhill courses all over. We have a lot of top-tier facilities and skateboarding is the one thing we are lacking in this town. I don’t think the town realizes how big of a skate community we have in this area, and how awesome it is.”
Wangler said the TDRPD currently has no plan to prevent graffiti from returning now that it’s been removed. Staff is considering installing cameras, although nothing has been finalized at this time. Park hosts will patrol the park throughout the day. Wangler also made mention that there has been a recent uptick in vandalism in other parts of Truckee and Donner Lake, notably a new memorial bench at Shoreline Park that was vandalized only two days after being installed.
“I think a good start would literally just be a couple of signs that say, no graffiti …,” Arnold said on preventing future graffiti. “This past winter I was out in Bozeman, Montana, and there was a skatepark with a mural wall with layers of graffiti. Since there was this art form there, covering the wall that looked graffiti-esque, I didn’t see any graffiti on the skatepark itself.”
Lady Luck Skate and Smoke Shop carries and sells spray paint in shops located in Kings Beach, Tahoe City, and Incline Village. “We carry a very high-end line of spray paint,” owner Brad Sheraman says. “It’s called Montana 97. It’s about $10 a can and it’s for really serious artists. I choose to [carry spray paint] because I promote artists in our area. I have some murals on my building as well. I don’t promote graffiti.”
Sherman went on to explain that skateboarders “should not be painting on anybody’s property other than their own. In Kings Beach, we’re a part of a cleanup program, the store is, and quite a few times we’ve had to go out and remove graffiti.”
In order to purchase spray paint from Lady Luck, you must be at least 18 years of age. Upon purchase, the store employees tell customers not to use the paint for graffiti or vandalism. The same information is also posted in writing on the rack in the store where the paint is held. According to Sherman, when someone purchases spray paint from Lady Luck, the store employee explains instances of vandalism in the area and asks the customer not to vandalize. The shops are now including the instances of graffiti at the Truckee Skatepark in their spiel to those buying spray paint.
Now that the graffiti tags have been removed from the park, both skateboarders and TDRPD staff are hoping that the park stays a graffiti-free place.
As of July 19, no graffiti is present on the cement skatepark, though it remains on nearby benches and picnic tables.
“You know how they say living in Truckee and Tahoe is like living in a bubble? Well, I like the bubble,” Ondercin says. “I like it when it’s all clean and beautiful. We all spend a lot of money to live here and to raise our families here. And then to have it just be dirty and vandalized is discouraging.”