Rod Wojtanik, one of the most influential voices in Pacific Northwest skateboarding, is packing his bags for a new professional opportunity and leaving behind skatepark development. Rod recently announced his pending departure from the City of Portland’s Parks & Recreation bureau for a landscape architecture position with Metro, Portland’s regional government. He’ll begin in September.
Bureaucrats come and go in government, but Rod occupied a unique position. In addition to more traditional planning and landscape design project responsibilities, Rod oversaw development of Portland’s groundbreaking skatepark program. Portland, you probably know, has three new skate projects open to the public, two more awaiting execution, and 14 more sited and planned for development. No city on earth has done what Portland is doing, and Rod steered the system from its inception to its current status. For skateboarders, Rod’s departure marks the end of an era.
It would only be fair to acknowledge skaters’ relationship with Rod through the years has had its share of ups and downs. Advocacy requires vigilance to achieve desired goals, and sometimes that means rejecting the bureaucratic status quo. Rod didn’t always share skaters’ views or strategies, but he learned a lot about skateboarding in a hurry and always worked to see skaters get the same respect every other recreational interest group enjoys. We presented the facts, and he helped broadcast them.
Rod knows more about skateboarding and its subculture than any non-skater we know. We owe him a debt of gratitude for making the effort to translate our needs into a language the mainstream machine understands. The reality is successful advocacy is a two-way street: you can’t expect people to support your needs if you are unwilling or unable to express them in a way people understand. Rod often served as our translator.
With successful parks in the ground, skateboarding is no longer the neighborhood bogeyman, the convenient surrogate for fear of change. In this new era SPS looks forward to developing an even more collaborative relationship with Rod’s successor. For now though, cheers to Rod for having our backs over the years. Portland’s skatepark system enjoys a momentum skaters in every other city would kill for. It wouldn’t be happening without Rod Wojtanik.