Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Sound Decisions

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Sound Decisions

Article excerpt

When deciding whether or not to build a skatepark, residents usually sound off with noise concerns-but are they valid?

Coffee and grunge music have a place to call home in Seattle, Wash. However, the city's estimated 20,000 skateboarders did not-after several years of community debate and run-ins with the law, they still didn't have a large skatepark. Ballard Bowl, a small concrete bowl, was the only place they could grind, ollie and kickflip legally in the city.

That is now changing, thanks to the work of Seattle Parks and Recreation and dedicated citizens and skaters who fought to seek approval for Lower Woodland Park, which would be the first regional skatepark in the area. It is scheduled to be completed this winter, and will offer various areas for different skill levels and styles of skating.

It wasn't an easy road though, mostly because of complaints from nearby residents who lived close to the proposed site, and thought noise would be an issue. Neighbors lived as close as 100 feet to the proposed site, and thought clattering boards, rowdy teens and grinding wheels could be a disruption.

Dewey Potter, communications manager for Seattle Parks and Recreation says they worked with residents and skaters, and listened to both sides in a number of town meetings. They even hired a consultant to test sound levels, which reached 70 decibels at 50 feet away, which is comparable to the noise of a dishwasher. In the end, the agency decided to move the site because of noise concerns.

"We had picked a site on another side of the park where the parking lot was," Potter explains. "But some parents expressed concerns about it being near the woods. It was our original intent to have it there, and in the end we moved it back there and everyone was happy."

Although changing sites worked in Seattle's situation, plans for a skatepark don't have to be jeopardized because of noise concerns. According to the Skatepark Association of the United States of America (SPAUSA), communities request noise studies regularly when the skatepark is being planned, but rarely have a problem with it after the skatepark is built.

SPAUSA says it has only received one complaint about noise from the city of Brea, Calif. The site the city chose was at the base of a hill and the noise traveled upward to the homes on the top of the hill.

Twinkie Goorhuis, president of Reedsport Skate Park in Reedsport, Ore., agrees with SPAUSA, saying that now that the town's skatepark is built, the community wonders what kids did before. "The skatepark has not added any noise at all," she says. "You really can't alleviate any fears, even though they are ungrounded. Once the park is there, it turns out not to be the problem it was suspected to be."

When the skatepark was being built in Reedsport in 2001, Vice-President of the Board John Lechuga says the topic of noise was an issue. The team wanted the skatepark to be visible from a main road and its current location of Lions Park seemed perfect. However, with residential housing on two sides of the park, residents quickly brought up noise concerns. Since completion, it hasn't been a problem.

"Some of the residents who did not wish for the skatepark to be built ended up becoming our primary activists-one of them was over 80 years old! …

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