Golden Gate Park has a rich history of skating that dates back to the late 1800’s. Way back then, the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department established a roller rink in the park and offered skate rentals. Fast forward to today, and the 6th Avenue Skate Park located by John F. Kennedy Drive sees a great deal of activity from all sorts of park users, especially on car-free Sunday afternoons. Local events and competitions are also held at the Skate Park.
The History of Skating in Golden Gate Park
When John F. Kennedy Drive (one of the main streets of Golden Gate Park) started closing the road to traffic during the late 1960’s, skaters flocked to the park with even greater enthusiasm. By the end of the 1970’s, the first skate vendor trucks started to park along Fulton Street, providing an encouraging reason to explore the park using a different set of wheels. It is estimated in the summer of 1979 that 15,000 to 20,000 skaters were using Golden Gate Park on Sundays. At one time, the park border was decorated with more than 35 skate vendor trucks that provided rentals to park visitors.
In response to the number of complaints from residential neighbors and an increase of injury reports, the Recreation and Parks Commission contemplated banning skating in Golden Gate Park altogether. Following months of public forums and meetings, the Recreation and Parks Department identified four locations in the park where people could NOT skate: the Conservatory of Flowers, the Music Concourse, Stow Lake and Children’s Playground. A total skate ban in the park was threatened if people ignored the ordinance. To enforce the restrictions, a ‘skate patrol’ formed. Eventually, the city passed an ordinance banning all “recreational equipment vendors” from operating in San Francisco – meaning skate trucks were not allowed to provide rentals in the park.
Roller disco trends during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s saw skaters once again flooding Golden Gate Park – gathering on the smooth foundation of the bridge between 8th and 10th Avenues on JFK Drive. Skateboarders and BMX bikes started to occupy the bridge as well, and skaters clearly needed their own space. Soon, skaters would enjoy a relandscaped haven in Golden Gate Park at 6th Ave and Kennedy Drive – a place just for them that is constantly frequented by roller skaters, roller bladers, and spectators to this very day.
Things to Do
Every Sunday, it’s free to enjoy the fun that unwinds at the Skate Park – a time when skaters from all over the Bay Area come to congregate, mingle, skate and watch the action. Around noon, the local “GodFather” of the skate park, David Mills (the founder and President of the California Outdoor Rollerskating Association and the Golden Gate Park Skate Patrol), usually makes an appearance with his booming system. While no skate rentals are available directly in the park, there are nearby options. However, having your own pair of skates is highly recommended so that you can easily enjoy the atmosphere without having to visit a rental shop.
Various events have been held at the 6th Avenue Skate Park, including the Red Bull Great Skate Freestyle Roller Dance Championships. Throughout the year, keep an eye out for public roller skate and BBQ parties held at 6th Avenue, especially around the Fourth of July holiday.
You will find the 6th Avenue skating situated just inside the park between Fulton Street and John F. Kennedy Drive. On Sundays, no vehicles are allowed on JFK Drive, which means the park swells with an increased number of skaters.