Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Want a Great Skatepark? Put the Experts to Work!

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Want a Great Skatepark? Put the Experts to Work!

Article excerpt

The booming growth in boarding and blading is being fueled not by parents and coaches, but rather by the passion and enthusiasm of the kids themselves.

If there is one over-riding philosophy that should guide skateboarding products and skatepark site development it is this: be true to the kids. The booming growth in boarding and blading is being fueled not by parents and coaches, but rather by the passion and enthusiasm of the kids themselves. They are the experts, and the more we can involve them in the planning and development of skateparks, the more successful those projects will be.

There is perhaps no better example of this than the experience of Dick Guthrie, Director of Human Services for the city of Claremont, CA. In 1994, a group of skateboarders complained to Guthrie that they had no place to skate and that this was creating a problem for local merchants whose sidewalks and planters had become their skatepark.

In response, the city formed a Teen Skateboard Committee made up of skaters ages 13 to 18. Over the next 12 months, Dick Guthrie and his staff involved these kids in every aspect of the planning and construction of the city's first skatepark. He invited the kids who were at the margins of the community, both socially and recreationally, to assume major responsibilities for the project. He then watched them mature and gain confidence even as the skatepark took shape. The Claremont Skate Park was the first of its kind to open in Los Angeles County and was an enormous success for skateboarders and for the community. Dick Guthrie is now the Chair of the Southern California Skate Park Coalition, which is made up of 60 public agendas that operate skateparks.

Here are some of his recommendations for involving skateboarders and skaters in the creation of a skatepark in your city.

How to Involve the Skaters

There are two common means of tapping into the energy and expertise of your community's skateboarders. The first is to simply invite the skateboarders to a public hearing or meeting on the subject, usually by running an ad in the local newspaper and by posting notices in area skateboarding shops and sports retailers. This will ensure that their viewpoints are hears, and that they, too, see how other groups view the issues that make up major skatepark projects.

The second option, which was chosen at Claremont, is inviting skateboarders to an initial meeting at a local teen center. This group then elected 13 members to represent them on the Teen Skateboard Committee. It was made clear that as members, they would have the right to voice their opinions on everything from site selection to the design itself, but they would also have the responsibilities to roll up their sleeves and work alongside everyone else. From the very beginning, it was clear that this skatepark project was also a youth development project.

Site Selection

Even before specific sites are discussed, it is important to identify the issues that influence site selection. These include access to transportation, pay phones and restrooms, proximity to skating populations, aesthetics, even a frank discussion about how nearby residents and retailers night view the skatepark. You want your skateboarders to understand concerns about graffiti, litter, noise and traffic before they encounter them. This is a very teachable moment and one that is critical to the success of the park. Once the issues are understood, invite the kids to make site tours with your staff.

Public Meetings

Today, every new parks and recreation project, gymnasiums, playgrounds, basketball courts, and skateparks must address the not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) issues that come with the territory. Usually, these issues rise to the forefront at public hearings and meetings. It is at these meetings that the quest for a specific skatepark site or design will be won or lost. It is important that your skateboarders are involved in these meetings and be well prepared. …

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