Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Street Smarts

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Street Smarts

Article excerpt

A new brand of skatepark, called a skate plaza, hits the streets for boarders wanting to ride the rails.

Change within a community comes when vision meets hard work and persistence. All of those factors came together in Kettcring, Ohio, and helped spark the construction of the first-of-its-kind skateboarding facility-the Rob Dyrdek/DC Shoes Foundation Kettcring Skate Plaza.

Do-it-yourself design is at the heart of many great inventions and the Skate Plaza is no exception. Professional skateboarder and Kettering native Rob Dyrdek's design is a 40,000-square-foot Skate Plaza that shatters all the stereotypes of a stark concrete skatepark of vertical ramps and half pipes. Designed for street skaters, the Skate Plaza incorporates urban terrain elements such as benches, rails and ledges that create a multi-use park resembling a public square in a city.

But what exactly is street skateboarding? Street skateboarding, or street skating, literally means riding a skateboard and performing maneuvers on obstacles found in a street. It was born out of a need for accessible and affordable alternatives to bowl-shaped skateparks and wooden vertical ramps. Skateboarders began combining half-pipe and freestyle tricks, and performing them on paved obstacles that are normally found in urban or suburban environments (i.e. curbs, ledges, stairs, hand-rails, sidewalks, driveway bumps, walls, embankments, planters, benches, picnic tables and more). Because street skating could be done just about anywhere, it became the dominating force in skateboarding. According to a 2003 Board-Trac survey, 10 million out of 13 million skateboarders identified themselves as "street skateboarders."

Found in a natural setting, a skate spot is comprised of a set of obstacles that are conducive to skateboarding. Some of the elements that make an area a skate spot include smooth ground, plenty of space, numerous lines of approach and an obstacle. An ideal skate spot could be a group of benches at a school or a handrail at a town square. When several skate spots are clustered in one specific area, the location becomes a center of activity for skaters to refine their skateboarding skills and socialize.

However, skateboarding in public streets is still illegal in most places in America. Cities have tried to offer alternatives by building and funding skateparks. According to the Rob Dyrdek/DC Shoes Skate Plaza Foundation, there were an estimated 400 public skateparks in America in 2002 (one skatepark per 32,500 skateboarders). Unfortunately, many of those skateparks are unused, because they weren't designed to duplicate the real street setting that skateboarders love.

The result is 10 million street skaters using parking lots, business plazas, streets and sidewalks for their sport, all of which are private property or public property that are not intended for skateboarding. Many cities have enlisted law enforcement to criminalize skateboarding. Tickets and the possibility of arrest are common, everyday occurrences for skateboarders. Many property owners have gone so far as to "skate-proof" their property by attaching some form of impediment on the surface that skateboarders use, rendering the surface unskateable.

"I know all skateboarders suffer the same pain that I suffer each day trying to skate," explains Dyrdek. "There is not one place in the entire United States where I could go and legally skate real street. Each day there are fewer and fewer places to street skate. The future of skateboarding relies on having places to do it."

Skateboarders in Kettering have also faced these problems. Like many communities across the nation, Kettering doesn't have a skatepark. Although Kettering skateboarders have had the option for several years to travel to traditional bowl-shaped skateparks in surrounding communities, they chose to skateboard in public and private property within the city.

Several years ago, the concept for a skatepark in Kettering was brought up in a focus group during the Youth Summit, an annual retreat for approximately 300 youth that addresses issues faced by Kettering kids. …

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