Where We Live: Burnside Skatepark’s 30th anniversary

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By skaters, for skaters since 1990

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It’s the most famous skateboard park in the world, and it sparked a wave of do-it-yourself venues for skateboarders around the globe. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Burnside Skatepark.

The phrase “DIY or DIE” painted on a wall in the Burnside Skatepark. (Courtesy Scizo Scott)

Protected from the elements, under the east end of the Burnside Bridge, the Burnside Skatepark attracts the best of the best. Some young skateboarders started it in the summer of 1990 by getting extra cement from nearby construction projects and first building a vertical obstacle in an empty parking lot in a neglected part of the city. Sage Bolyard was one of the early founders.

“The whole vibe down there—it’s built by skateboarders, maintained by skateboarders, inhabited by skateboarders,” said Bolyard. “Pretty much our own world down there.”

It’s an ongoing project, a counter-culture haven for skaters, artists, and political causes.

“Its some of the most beautiful community, globally, I’ve witnessed in my life. And I’ve witnessed it all over the planet,” said Bolyard.

The skatepark became world famous. It’s featured in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater video game, and in films, including Portlander Gus Van Sant’s 2007 film, “Paranoid Park,” in which KOIN 6 News’ Ken Boddie made an appearance—playing a newscaster of course!

Although open to anyone, Burnside Skatepark is not an official city park. It’s funded by donations and its future is not assured. Gentrification has crept in. And Multnomah County is considering plans to seismically upgrade or replace the Burnside Bridge, which could change or temporarily close the park.

Undated photo of skaters at Burnside Skatepark. (Courtesy Scizo Scott)

It’s one reason why Double Mountain Brewery came up with a 30th anniversary beer, raising money for what may lie ahead. The owner was recently a guest on AM Extra.

“The threats are really undefined,” said brewery owner Matt Swihart. “We just know that they’re up and coming, and the folks who are involved in building the park are concerned about what’s going to happen in the future.”

Burnside Skatepark—a legendary Portland place, and an icon of “Keeping Portland Weird.”

“It’s a little overwhelming. It’s really exciting,” said Bolyard.

The Burnside Skatepark began the tradition of concrete skateboard parks. Previously, most skateparks were built of wood. Bolyard now consults and builds skateboard parks all over the world.

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