Former pro skater Jesse Martinez has spent the last six years getting up every day before the sun rises to go to the Venice Skate Park and clean it up. The biggest battle is with graffiti, says The Argonaut, but he does an impeccable job: though the concrete is vandalized every night, "there's not a single tag on the 16,000-square-foot park." That's because Martinez has decided not to let it happen: "If you tag it, I guarantee you that by eight in the morning it will be gone," he says. This is not officially his job; though he's been at it since the skate park opened in 2009, Martinez has never been paid a cent to work there.
A skater since the early days of the sport, Martinez is spurred to take care of the park only by pride in his neighborhood and the legacy left by 1970s skate legends who grew up there, popularized skateboarding, and were immortalized in movies like the 2001 documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys. He does use supplies funded or donated by the Venice Skatepark Foundation/Venice Skate Alliance, a nonprofit started by local skaters, and there are about six volunteers who might help him out on any day. But he's the driving force behind the maintenance of the park, and is recognized as such not just by the locals, but also by the city. The skate park is under the jurisdiction of Los Angeles's Department of Rec and Parks, but "until recently ... has not provided funding or labor for cleaning or maintenance." They'd instead created a partnership with a Venice Skate Alliance precursor, giving them responsibility for taking care of the park.
The city has reached out to Martinez—"We'd like to see him paid for his work," a Rec and Parks rep says. "That was our intent."—but has been holding on to his employment application for four months. (The rep explained there is, for some reason, "a criminal background check hold" on Martinez's paperwork.)
Meanwhile, a few weeks ago, the old truck that Martinez uses when doing skate park upkeep was stolen. Martinez says that, without the truck, he can't get the pressure washer he needs to blast graffiti off the concrete. One of his friends, a fellow skateboarder and realtor named David Fowler, launched a GoFundMe campaign to help raise money and awareness about the work that Martinez does at the park, as well as to spotlight the funding issues for park maintenance. Being a volunteer caretaker of the skate park hasn't been easy for Martinez, who's taken time away from other parts of his life to keep the park pristine as a point of pride for Venice, but he seems to be focused on keeping it up: "Just let me clean. I don't want to do anything else. I do it so Dogtown lives on."
· The Keeper of Dogtown [Argonaut]