Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Get the Site Right: Site Selection Is the Key to Building a Successful Skatepark

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Get the Site Right: Site Selection Is the Key to Building a Successful Skatepark

Article excerpt

The pressure to build skateparks has grown dramatically over the last five years, as this underserved and rapidly growing market has captured the public's eye. Skaters and their parents have learned how to access public officials, which has led to the rapid increase in the number of public parks. Increased focus on skateboarding in the media (the X-Games and Gravity Games, for example) has fueled the demand, also leading to the increase in private, for-pay skateparks. Skaters and their supporters often remind public officials that they have the right to expect cities to provide them the same kinds of facilities that are provided to residents who participate in basketball, tennis, softball and other recreational activities. They're also reminding officials that the fear of skating producing liability claims hasn't materialized and that, in fact, skating ranks low in reported injury rates when compared to most recreational sports and activities.

Once this groundwork is done and a community agrees to support a skatepark, the most important decision is location. No other decision will be more important to the success and ease of operation of a skatepark. For that reason, it's important that communities use good judgment and a thoughtful process in making site-selection decisions.

Consider the Users

Skateparks are busy recreational facilities used primarily by youth and young adults. Professional judgment would say that they should be built in highly visible locations, with the safety of the user and the ability to monitor operations in mind. The location should preferably be on a main artery, with good public transportation available.

When planning skateparks, important amenities such as restrooms and parking lots need to be included in the site location. The issue of restrooms is an important one, as skaters often spend many hours at skateparks. Some cities have had to add port-a-potties or build restrooms after the fact because they forget to include them in the site-location decision. It's also imperative that the site has easy access for police and emergency response vehicles. While the injury/liability record for skateparks has been far less than anticipated, quick and easy access is nonetheless important. Site selection should also consider access to public phones and how walkways will connect with parking lots and other park facilities.

Consideration should be given to closeness to residences and incompatible park elements (senior center, tot lot, etc.) and potential noise impacts. Experienced skatepark design firms have a good knowledge of noise studies, which demonstrate that most skateparks don't have a greater noise impact than other active park recreation facilities. Design elements such as berms and landscaping can further mitigate noise as an issue.

Site consideration should also consider whether the skatepark will be lighted. I'm an advocate for lighting skateparks, but this means that lights must meet minimum safety standards and thus can impact the site location. Having good information and dealing with these issues in advance will be helpful in dealing with NIMBY issues.

Alone or Integrated?

Traditional consideration for site locations have included existing and new parks, underused recreation elements such as tennis courts, and parking lots. Several cities have worked in collaboration with local schools, which are often good sites for skate parks. Many school campuses are already active skating spots, and existing play fields or athletic courts could accommodate skateparks. …

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