Free roller skating, other creative programs launch in Oakland

City leaders said they're using innovative and creative ideas – and paying for them with grant money – to make Oakland safer for residents and business owners.

They launched a new program on Thursday night to help make that happen with events to be held in various neighborhoods and commercial areas.

The first event of "Activate Oakland" was held in West Oakland: Roller skating at De Fremery Park. 

"We know we must be innovative to create safer spaces and support our residents," said Kimberly Mayfield, deputy mayor of Oakland.   

Thursday night's event is called Panther Prowl named for the Panther Skate Plaza, the group hosting the gathering.  

It's one of 38 recipients of city grants totaling $320,000 that make these events possible.

"It's benefitting us all who live here and work here. I feel great about it," said Oakland resident Tina Martin. 

Brandon Carter, another Oakland resident, said skating has helped him cope with mental health issues and that gatherings such as this event could benefit others.  

"I had a problem with drinking in the past. Skating was my out to get away from myself, and self-imploding," said Carter.

City officials said they received more than 700 applications from community members and groups that wanted to participate in the program and receive funding.  

One criteria is what impact the events will have on improving safety for neighbors.  

Organizers said it's important parks are used in the way they're intended.

Cristy Johnston Limon, deputy director for Oakland Economic and Workforce Development Department, said drug use and homeless encampments scare off residents and that community events will help keep parks safe and inviting.

In addition to skating, Activate Oakland will offer a  variety of activities including night markets. 

"This is your town. These are your amenities. Go ahead and use them the way they were intended. It brings out families. It helps to build community," said Johnston Limon.  

The next event is a toy giveaway scheduled for Dec. 23. 

City officials said there will be events every month through next August.  

All the events are free. For more information, click here. 

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU.  Email Amber at or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU,  Instagram @AmberKTVU  or Twitter @AmberKTVU.