By Gaige Davila
The Gwen Bowl in Laguna Vista may soon be under the watch of the town and its skateboarding community.
During their Oct. 13 town council meeting, Laguna Vista council members unanimously voted to propose a lease agreement with Cross Church, a San Benito-based church with a campus in Laguna Vista, regarding a skatepark on their property.
The proposed lease agreement comes after Cross Church posted signs near the skatepark saying that skateboarding was prohibited there. The signs shocked the local skating community and the original members of South Padre Island Texas Skateboarders (SPITS) who fundraised and built the bowl in 2006.
Cross Church’s “Bay Area” campus occupies the former home of Christ Harbor Church, the latter of which made a “handshake agreement” agreement with the South Padre Island Texas Skateboarders (SPITS) nonprofit organization that the skatepark, a pool-style skate bowl, would be donated to and maintained by SPITS members. Christ Harbor Church allowed SPITS to construct the skatepark in the far corner of the church’s property after the City of South Padre Island denied the group from building a park on the Island.
Eric Christensen, who built the bowl with his brother Ben, attended the Oct. 13 town council meeting, relaying the mission of a group called Save The Gwen Bowl: to ensure the skatepark is available for continued use. The skatepark was named the Gwen Bowl after Laguna Vista resident Gwen McCormick was hit by a truck skateboarding on Broadway Boulevard.
Christensen made contact with Cross Church’s executive pastor, Abram Gomez, who told him that while the church had no plans to demolish the Gwen Bowl, he could not promise that something similar would not be done in the future. According to Christensen, Gomez told him that the signs were posted because of COVID-19 concerns.
Also joining the council meeting virtually was Raul Valdez Jr., an original member of SPITS and Save The Gwen Bowl, who spoke on his upbringing in the Laguna Madre area and the Gwen Bowl’s influence on the Rio Grande Valley’s skateboarding culture. Valdez has been involved in several skatepark projects across the Rio Grande Valley since Gwen Bowl was built, he said, including the Oliveira Skateboard Park in Brownsville.
“I really believe that handshake with Pastor Don fifteen years ago built the groundwork for these skateparks,” Valdez said, referring to the “handshake agreement” between then-pastor Don Ceglar of Christ Harbor Church and SPITS.
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