Magazine article Parks & Recreation

SKIMMING the SURFACE

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

SKIMMING the SURFACE

Article excerpt

The skatepark industry has been grinding for 40 years, and has finally found its footing.

Almost 12 years ago, the city of Peachtree City Parks and Recreation Department decided to build a skatepark. At that time, the skatepark industry was just coming off a lull in participation from the mainstream community, which left the department on its own for most of its research. Since then, the department has had to play catch-up on the Shakerag Knoll Skateboard Park, which was one of the first public skateparks in Georgia.

The 50-by-50 park initially had a six-foot metal halfpipe with a wooden frame, concrete surfacing and several other obstacles. But the wooden frame was beginning to rot, and the metal surface grew hot under Georgia's sun making it unappealing to skateboarders who feared first-degree burns on their exposed skin.

When Jim O'Connell joined the department about two years ago, he was given the task of replacing the decrepit halfpipe. The budgeted $25,000 could not get him a halfpipe, but he did manage to purchase two quarter pipes with a metal frame and a Skatelite Pro surface-part of a group of emerging synthetic surfaces that are becoming the industry standard (See chart on page 52).

Since then, O'Connell has tried to update the park's elements in hopes of luring skateboarders away from shopping center parking lots and government courtyards.

"We just haven't gotten around to designing a facility that meets their needs," says O'Connell, leisure program coordinator for the department. "It's not convenient for them to come here as opposed to the Kroger's [The Kroger Co.] shopping center nearby."

Faulting Asphalt

Jeff Greenwood, editor of the skatepark resource Web site www.concretedisciples. com, says skateboarders will usually drive dozens of miles to find somewhere else to skate if their neighborhood skateparks are not designed correctly. And for those skaters who do not have transportation, "They'll spend a little time at the park and then go back to the parking lots," says Greenwood, who lias skated for 20 years and visited between 200 to 300 skateparks nationwide.

Greenwood says his ideal surface is concrete, and he docs not like skating on asphalt because it is "rough and bumpy." The temporary skateparks are feasible, but they tend to deteriorate more quickly and have poor transitioning between the ramps and the ground, lie says. Greenwood would rather a public skatepark be designed properly and take longer to build, than bought prc-fabricatcd for the purposes of getting the skateboarders off the public streets.

"You get a lot of communities who think they can't aObrd anything but asphalt," says Chad Ford, one of the executive directors of the Skatepark Association of the United States of America (SPAUSA). His organization is a California-based, non-profit group created almost eight years ago to provide free information to public agencies interested in building skateparks in their communities. Ford says, "There is absolutely nothing good about asphalt."

Ford, who has been a skatepark designer for more than 20 years, says the main misconception parks and recreation departments make is that they think skateparks are a youth-oriented activity, and are as simple to design as a pool or tennis court. Out Ford says the industry is 40 years old and has people with 40-plus years of information that they would gladly share. "They're [parks and recreation department officials are] not aware of the history there and that wealth of knowledge. They kind of inadvertently sidestep all of the information out there."

Asking the Experts

The town of Groton, Conn., decided to build a skatepark in 1999. According to Groton's Parks and Recreation Superintendent Jerry Lokken, the town wanted a quick turnaround with the skatepark. Because not many skatepark builders were located in the area at the time, the department asked a local pool contractor to build the skatepark's primary two elcmunts; a concrutu bowl and pyramid. …

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