Public skateparks don’t come gift-wrapped.
By Miki Vuckovich
With over 11-million skateboarders in the U.S. alone, and only about 2,000 skateparks, we have a long way to go before our need for top-quality terrain is met. Particularly when you consider how many of the existing skateparks are, well, unskateable. It’s up to skaters to be sure that the hundreds of cities currently racing to build their first parks build them well, and it’s also up to skaters to start the skatepark process in the thousands of towns that have yet to even consider it.
And that’s where you come in--it’s your town, it’s your scene, and it’ll be your skatepark, but not if it never gets built. Here are some of the steps you’ll be taking on your way to achieving a wicked public TF.
Organize – It won’t be your park, it’ll be everyone‘s. So get them all involved in the project. Start with your friends and parents. You’ll need skaters (who will actually use the park) and adults (who both vote and pay taxes) on your skatepark committee for it to be effective. Obviously, skaters know what they need (and they certainly know what they don’t want). And adults who have been involved with other public projects or who understand how the local government works are very valuable. It’s important to show that the whole community is behind the project, and not just the skaters. Plus, adults can handle some of the more boring--but important--organizational chores.
Promote – You may have a talented and persuasive group of volunteers on your skatepark committee, but unless you have broad public support, you’ll have trouble convincing local officials that they should spend public money on a skatepark (they’d rather build another softball complex). Send skaters door-to-door to collect signatures and hand out information sheets about your project, including where and when you’ll be meeting. Have adult members of the group approach their friends and colleagues, as well. Skaters can solicit the help of business owners that kick them out of spots--yes, if they don’t want you skating the rail in front of their store, it behooves them to support the creation of a local public skatepark.
Fundraise – Once you’ve articulated the need for a public skatepark to your local leaders and can show broad public support for the project, your group will likely be asked to find funding for the skatepark. While the city has likely spent millions of dollars on facilities for other sports, they’ll probably ask for at least some of the funds for the skatepark to be raised privately. In other words, it’ll be up to you to go out and find it.
Again, rely on your group for good ideas and potential sources of contributions. Local businesses, business associations, wealthy individuals, and other nonprofit groups or foundations are likely sources. And don’t forget that donations from individuals, even in small amounts, can add up. Businesses that can provide materials or services (concrete, lumber, excavation, etc.) are potential sources of valuable in-kind donations. Create a fundraising program that includes the whole community and allows anyone to contribute any amount. It all adds up.
Come up with some creative and fun public events that will attract people and your local media. The more you can get the word out about your skatepark project, the more chances you have of reaching potential donors. Fundraising takes a long time, and it’s likely that you’ll be going away to college before you’ve achieved your goal. But with all the time you’ll spend raising money for your skatepark, at least you won’t be getting tickets for skating.
Design – This is the fun part, and it’s likely that the first thing you did when deciding to launch a skatepark project was to draw your fantasy park. Well, the skatepark probably won’t look anything like that, because most public skatepark designs result from the inputt of several skaters filtered through the ideas and experience of a professional skatepark designer; the best skateparks are the result of top skatepark designers taking local input and balancing it with everything they know about lines, flow, speed, and the million other things that affect skatepark design. The importance of hiring an experienced skatepark designer cannot be overemphasized. In other words, a guy who sells playground equipment in addition to skate ramps is not a qualified skatepark designer.
Build – Along with Design, this is the other most critical step. You can have the best design on paper, but if you hand it over to a guy who’s made his living pouring sidewalks, get ready for kinks, bumps, and gaps (not the kind you can ollie). Just as every qualified designer should be able to rattle off a list of great parks they’re responsible for, so should a qualified skatepark builder. And it’s up to you to recognize or check those references.
The Internet is full of skatepark reviews (try skateboarding.com or concretedisciples.com, among others). Often, top designers are associated with top builders, but the civic process usually requires a public bidding process on construction jobs like a skatepark. Just be sure the people responsible for writing the bid specifications are very detail-oriented so that all potential builders are clear about what is expected of them. The importance of hiring an experienced skatepark builder cannot be overemphasized. The skatepark you asked for, funded, and designed is the skatepark you deserve.
Those are some of the basic steps in achieving a top-quality public skatepark. Hopefully, you won’t be going too far away to college, or will at least be able to come home for a shred over the Holidays. In any case, you can be proud of the legacy you’ve left for future generations of skaters. They’ll chant your name as they switch back tail that buttery ledge you helped design.
But it won’t happen if you don’t get started. Get your friends together, and get something going. For more information, get online and check out these and other resources:
Tony Hawk Foundation: www.tonyhawkfoundation.org
Skaters For Public Skateparks: www.skatersforpublicskateparks.org
Skatepark Association of the USA: www.spausa.org
Miki Vuckovich is Executive Director of the Tony Hawk Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering youth through the creation of quality public skateparks in low-income areas. www.tonyhawkfoundation.org
1. SKATEPARKS REDUCE ILLICIT BEHAVIOR
The myth surrounding skateparks is that they are a breeding ground for crime and other illicit activities. While there will be an occasional “bad seed”, providing designated spaces for positive activities is the best way to curb unlawful behavior among youth. When youth having nothing to do or nowhere to go – that is when they cause trouble.
“It’s no secret that children who are involved in team sports don’t have the time to get into trouble, but it turns out you don’t have to be dragging them to the soccer field or baseball diamond. Activities you might not expect — like skateboarding — might be just what teens and adolescents need. Research out of the University of North Carolina found that skateboarding is among the activities that might help keep children out of trouble.
“I think skateboarding kids are a focused group of kids,” said Diana Harris, a parent. Compared to their couch potato peers, active adolescents — including skateboarders — were less likely to engage in risky behavior like smoking and drinking.
“I think that is a group we see as being a little more on the risky side, but instead of being on the risky side, they were actually protected from those behaviors,” said Dr. Penny Gordon-Larsen, a researcher.”
Source: NBC Philadelphia “Keeping Active Best Way To Keep Kids Out Of Trouble” April 3, 2006
“This area is located in one of the most impoverished areas in Long Beach, and the park currently has given hundreds of kids in the neighborhood an alternative to drugs, gangs and the many negatives they face each day. The City’s application shows that the project meets the goals of Job Creation, Benefiting Low Income Communities, Blight Reduction and Economic Development and Smart Growth.
Reduction in Crime since the Skate Park was installed: From 2003 to 2008, crime has dropped in the immediate area around the park, which has historically been a very high crime area of the city. Since 2003,drug related incidents have dropped 60.9%, violent crime has dropped 29.3% and overall incidents have dropped 22.8%. Further, calls for service have dropped 23.0%.”
Source: “News Release: Long Beach Rejects Assertion that 14th street stake Park Project is Stimulus Waste” Ed Kamlan, Public Affairs Specialist City Manager’s Office – City of Long Beach
“Young skaters roll into smooth concrete bowls and ramps that both parents and health officials see as a constructive and positive way to keep children away from drugs, gangs and crime.
“Skateboarding here gives us something to do instead of crazy stuff,” Zuniga said, adding that the negative influences for teens are still prevalent in his neighborhood.
In 2008, Ciudad Juárez initiated “Reclaiming Public Spaces,” a project that includes the remodeling or construction of parks, community centers, skateboard parks and extreme sports parks.
“One of the psychosocial benefits is to feel safe again, reclaiming public spaces helps people feel like a community again, the busier the place, the more appealing for the youth and the safest people feel,” said Monica Chavira, M.A., Mental Health Consultant for the Pan American Health Organization.
“There is more opportunity for social interaction with other youth which helps develop trusting and cohesive communities.”
Sports, like skateboarding, is providing the children of Juárez an alternative to the violence surrounding them, Chavira said.
“Skateboarding as an urban playing activity is beneficial for kids because it works as a positive escape route where the community and all the skate park users begin to take ownership of their park and take care of it themselves,” she said. “In this individual activity there are no organizing factors limiting the creativity of the individual and it can become a highly motivational sport that encourages perseverance and discipline.”
Source: Fox News Latino “Ciudad Juarez Skatepark Lets Kids be Kids Amid Drug Violence” Joseph Kolb September 26, 2012
2. SKATEPARKS PROVIDE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR SKATEBOARDING
The majority of skateboarding injuries happen outside skateparks. The most common injuries are falls due to surface irregularities and collisions with motor vehicles or pedestrians.
Skateboarding is going to happen whether skateparks exist or not, so the best way to keep youth safe is to provide them access to safe, designated spaces to pursue their activity.
“In 2012, thirty skateboarders lost their lives. This report includes two skateboarders who suffered their accidents in 2011, but did not pass away until days or months after the original incident.
It is important to note that all thirty deaths occurred in a roadway. Twenty four out of the thirty skateboarders listed were struck by a vehicle.”
Source: Skaters for Public Skateparks “2012 Skateboarding Fatalities” Teresa Waters March 3, 2013
“Six months after plans to build a public skateboard park behind the Taunton police station were scrapped, some are speculating whether having such a facility could have saved the life of a Taunton skateboarder who was recently struck and killed by a car on Bay Street.
“He definitely would have used (the skate park),” said the boy’s mother, Melissa Thomas. “I think he probably would’ve been there instead of out on the street.”
“Personally, I think the decision to not allow the skate park denied skaters in Taunton a chance to recreate safely,” she said. Thomas echoed the sentiment. “They need a safe place where parents know where to find them,” Thomas said. “They don’t have a place to go anymore where they can skate.”
Source: Taunton Gazette “Taunton’s lack of public skate park brought to forefront in wake of teen’s death” Gerry Tuoti August 19, 2011
3. SKATEPARKS REDUCE DAMAGE TO PRIVATE PROPERTY
“Everybody raise your hand, look at the person next to you and give a high-five,” she said, before Mayor Dwight C. Jones joined young skateboarders in dedicating the new facility at Carter Jones Park in Woodland Heights.
“Richmond’s always been a tennis city,” Jones said, “but skateboarding is an emerging activity that’s going to happen whether we’re on board or not.”
Source: Richmond Times Dispatch “Skatepark opens in South Richmond” Michael Paul Williams September 14, 2013
Mayor Jone’s comments echo a popular phrase in the skatepark industry, “If your town doesn’t have a skatepark, it is one”. Without designated skateparks, skateboarders will make use of any and all terrain in their community.
This often includes the private property of home owners and local businesses, as well as public spaces such as downtown plazas. Metal skateboard axles and BMX pegs can destroy paint and chip concrete, causing thousands of dollars in damage every year.
Public skateparks are a win-win because skateboarders have a safe place to pursue their passion, while law enforcement, business owners and community members no longer have to spend time, money and energy shooing skateboarders away from their property.
“Tyler Wolf, 17, now spends time hanging out on the benches outside the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op on Grandin Road — a habit of many teens that has created anxiety among neighborhood business owners and residents this summer. He said an adequate skate park would lure him away from the benches. But Wolf called the state of Roanoke’s park “depressing,” especially since the removal of the half-pipe and several other ramps.
More support has been voiced for finding activities that draw their interest. In Bedford County, a skate park had promising effects, according to Michael Stokes, the county’s director of parks and recreation.
Prior to the opening of Falling Creek Park in 2011, Stokes said, area police and merchants dealt with several problem areas that were attracting teen skaters.
“They’re just looking for a place to skate,” Stokes said. “And they’re young and they’re going to test some people. You drive through town now and you don’t see that anymore.”
“The issues were just skating in places where there might be pedestrians or traffic and we’re not seeing that anymore,” Stokes said. “It’s open and very visible.”
Source: The Roanoke Times“Roanoke teen loitering blamed on skate park’s woes”
Zach Crizer August 2, 2013
While scrolling through the comments on this online article, we found a valuable testimonial from a local resident who had a first-hand experience with skateboarders in Roanoke’s downtown area. It’s clear from her comment, that the lack of a quality skatepark is creating unsafe environment and hurting the business of local merchants.
Teresa – August 1, 2013 at 1:03 am
“I do avoid the area due to the teens. Same thing in downtown Roanoke too. They block the sidewalks. Also have nearly run over kids who skated boarded into the street from behind cars. Can’t go to eat with my elderly mother because I am afraid she will be knocked down. Just not worth the hassle and definitely affected my use of merchants in the area.”
Source: The Roanoke Times “Roanoke teen loitering blamed on skate park’s woes”
Zach Crizer August 2, 2013
“PC Steve Wilson, of the Driffield Neighborhood Policing Team, said: “From my experience, I am aware that the skate park is regularly used by numerous young people from Driffield and the surrounding areas, offering a valuable diversion from anti- social behavior.”
The officer said in a letter to Skate Park organizers, which was read at a meeting of the Driffield Town Council policy and finance committee: “Since the skate park opened there has been a noticeable drop in calls to youths causing annoyance and related matters. I would fully support this facility being made into an all-weather, all year round resource.”
Source: Driffield Neighborhood Policing Team “Skate Park helps cut crime” August 8, 2006
4. SKATEBOARDING HAS SIGNIFICANT PHYSICAL HEALTH BENEFITS
Arguably the most important reason for participating in action sports is the fact that it keeps you healthy and physically fit. Finding an activity that gets kids off the couch and keeps them in shape is vital for the youth of this nation, especially in this time of a national health crisis.
“It’s a cardio workout, and the faster I go, the more I’m gasping for breath,” he said. “And it only becomes harder when I’m carrying a heavy backpack.”
While skateboarding might look like fun, it also registers as an excellent workout. Michele Olson, a professor of exercise science at the Montgomery, Ala., campus of Auburn University, said that boarding engages many small and large muscles.
“Your glutes, hamstring and quads work with all that pushing off the ground; your abs and back help you balance; and you use the small muscles in your calves, the stabilizing muscles in your hips and the ones in the arches of your feet, which is great because these weaken and flatten out as you get older,” she said.
Mr. Hippix began boarding in 2010, and he said he has become fitter and more toned. “It’s definitely changed my body for the better,” he said.”
Source: The New York Times “Skateboards for Work and Working Out” Shivani Vora August 22, 2013
“One of the most successful weapons against diabetes is a total blast: The Pawhuska Skate Park. It is impossible to make an absolutely correlation between Tucker’s improving health and the skate park, but here’s a stunning fact: In the past one and a half years, Tucker’s blood sugar average readings have steadily declined. In that same 18 months, he has been skating at the park, getting exercise for 10 hours or more hours a week – a proven method of keeping blood sugar in check.
His parents say that the skate park has made a huge difference in Tucker’s physical activity. In pre-skate park days, Mark says that Tucker’s life was mostly sedentary except for basketball season, largely occupied by school and playing video games. He still plays basketball, but now he’s in full-exercise mode all year round.”
Source: The Bigheart Times “Sk8ing for diabetes, fun” Louise Red Corn December 8, 2011
“Skateboard tricks and the lifestyles of the kids who practice them could be a key to fitness into adulthood. A recent study by Johns Hopkins University researchers said regularly skating, Rollerblading and biking increase children’s chances of fighting the flab as they grow. The odds were better than for those who played baseball and other organized, and often seasonal, sports.
The study, published in January’s Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, was one more among the many seeking solutions to the nation’s growing obesity epidemic. But it’s one researchers believe will fuel the push for more school and after-school activities. And skaters and their parents say it could help the unindoctrinated appreciate the benefits of some ramps and an outlaw spirit.
The senior Hulson is a lifelong athlete and said he likes skateboarding because he believes it is a good cardiovascular workout, builds muscle strength and confidence, and comes with a community that provides encouragement.
They found that among after-school activities, the likelihood of being an overweight adult was reduced 48 percent for those who skated or biked more than four times a week. For those who played soccer or other organized sports three or four times a week, the odds of being overweight later were reduced 20 percent.”
Source: Baltimore Sun “Ramped-up exercise: Hopkins study finds that kids who skateboard or Rollerblade stay fit longer than those who play organized sports” Meredith Cohn February 28, 2008
5. SKATEBOARDING HAS SIGNIFICANT MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS
Skateboarding is a unique activity because it combines extreme physical exertion with precise muscle coordination and balance. The complexity of performing tricks on a skateboard improves brain function at a fundamental level and stimulates new cell growth in the brain.
“In 2006, an elementary school in Boulder, Colorado began incorporating skateboarding into the physical education curriculum – calling the program “Skate Pass”. The program’s director, Eric Klassen, wanted to “bring in activities that are alternative, non-competitive and individual. Most kids in schools feel intimidated when it comes to competition.”
Klassen says the biggest benefit might be something kids don’t realize they’re learning. While skateboarding helps with eye-foot coordination and balance, he says it also improves performance in the classroom.
“When they’re involved in an activity that involves balance — both hemispheres of the brain are equally stimulated,” Klassen says. He points out that researchers have shown that the body also produces a hormone that makes students more receptive to learning for the rest of the school day.”
Source: 9News “Local school becomes first in nation to teach skateboarding” 3/6/2006
“Skaters at The Pipleline ride back and forth and up and down for hours and hours, practicing tricks over and over. In the process, they develop self-discipline, stamina and self-confidence.
“It definitely teaches you self-discipline,” said Rob Abbott, 30, skateboarder and salesman at Sequence Skate Shop. “There’s that mentality when you go out there, and you want to accomplish something. You practice it over and over for days and weeks at a time. And once you do it, you feel good about yourself and what you’ve accomplished.”
Source: The Juneau Empire “Riding the Concrete Wave” Teri Tibbett September 13, 2007
“Even more insidiously, my sweet but long-haired kids are subject to the continued supervision, tacit disapproval, and even harassment by police officers, business-owners, and ordinary people for their choice of sport. That is even though it is a sport exemplifying the values of sportsmanship, dedication, perseverance, and determination that we celebrate in hero-athletes like NFL great Joe Flacco and and the college athletes we are watching this week in the NCAA basketball finals.
But I am not just a rabid skate-mom, who wishes my sons could practice their sport closer to home and wear their skate logos without judgment. I also am also a Northwestern University sociologist of law who is trained in participant-observation and makes a living observing and analyzing social interactions.
As any soccer, basketball or football mom knows, having two kids who practice the sport means I’ve spent lots (and lots and lots) of time in skate parks all around the United States and parts of Europe. And what I observe is a sport practiced by dedicated and enthusiastic young people who should be admired, not scorned.
Skateboarders are dedicated; they show up to practice, rain, shine, or snow (if they have a place to do it) without a schedule. No coach tells them when to arrive, how long to work, or what the next trick is.
And yet they make progress. Even when the next trick involves staring down a 7-stair jump, dropping into a bowl that terrifies their mom, or trying a 360 flip to manual for 12 years before landing it, skaters keep at it.”
Source: Huffington Post “Skateboarding Is Still a Crime, But the Sport Is Admirable” 03/22/2013 Laura Beth Nielsen, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of Legal Studies, Northwestern University
“Experts would say that skateboarding and other individual sports are more beneficial than harmful to teenagers. They need to be out — hanging out with people, laughing, connecting to something larger than themselves and their worries.
Teenage years are an “awkward period in your life. You’re looking for definition and identity and your place in the world,” said Miki Vuckovich, executive director of the Tony Hawk Foundation, a nonprofit group working with city governments to help build public skateparks. “Skateboarding is the answer for a lot of kids. It’s fun. They can do it on their own terms. It doesn’t require a coach or a team. Skating is something you do at your own pace.”
He said skating actually is a lifestyle. There is the skating culture — the lingo, the fashion, the atmosphere — that teenagers like. Vuckovich said another great thing about skateboarding is that it’s a supportive environment. You don’t have to be a cool kid. You can’t get cut from a team.”
Source: Tampa Bay Times “Identity on board: Skateboarding gives kids a chance with individualism.” Erin Sullivan July 15, 2006
“Worley is a single mother with two children — Fallon, 5, and Sasha, 7. When Sasha was 2-years-old, he was diagnosed with autism. Worley said both her sons loved skateboarding, but the activity proved to be more than just fun for Sasha.
“It was this unique kind of therapy,” Worley said.
Worley said she noticed her sons’ relationship was much better when they would skate.
“Sasha likes to play by himself, has a lot of anxiety and fights a lot with his younger brother,” she said. “When he’s on a skateboard, they become best friends.”
Many children with autism seek ways to escape from pressure, Worley said. She said there were many times that Sasha would be so stressed that he would ram himself into a wall. Skating now relieves that pressure for him.
“He loves it,” she said. “There were days when he would get off the school bus and just fall on the ground screaming. With the half-pipe, he can just go inside and grab his board and skate for a while.”
Source: Daily Mountain Eagle “A rolling remedy” James Phillips, 2011
6. SKATEPARKS HAVE A POSITIVE ECONOMIC IMPACT
“Hundreds are flocking to the new Fremont Skate Park from throughout northern California. Last Wednesday, Mike Brown and his buddies piled into a car and made an hour-long pilgrimage from Pittsburg to Fremont.
Demarcus James did the same from San Francisco. “Smalls,” from Walnut Creek. Others, as far as Stockton and Sacramento. They’re among the hundreds, if not thousands, who’ve made their journey to the Fremont Skate Park since its soft opening on May 31, turning our city into an unlikely mecca for the edgy action sport.”
Source: Newark Patch “New Skate Park a Tri-City Mecca” Zoneil Maharaj June 13, 2013
“The park is not intended to be an economic-development tool, though it has proven to be a draw for other cities. Stan Robinson, chairman of Recreation District No. 3 in St. Mary Parish, said his district’s skate park, built in November, has been a worthwhile venture.
“I can’t tell you how many times a parent has said to me that it’s the best taxpayer money they’ve spent,” he said. Nearby businesses, he said, are seeing their sales increase from visitors to the park. “We are already planning to expand it,” he said.”
Source: Houma Today “Plans rolling ahead for new skate park” Chance Ryan January 31, 2013
“We do not have any specific studies on the economic impact of skateparks on communities, but from the feedback we receive from municipal skatepark managers, skateparks do seem to have a positive effect on businesses in the surrounding area. When a skatepark opens, it tends to draw folks from the outlying communities to come bring their kids to the skatepark, do some shopping, maybe have lunch, buy some gas, etc. Skateparks attract patrons to local businesses who might not otherwise be in the area.
Skateboarders are tenacious and will go wherever the compelling terrain is. While skateparks with high visibility and ample community interaction are healthier environments, skateparks in challenging locations can often serve to activate an otherwise underutilized space. Their presence displaces less desirable elements that require privacy and can be a steady presence for other visitors that may be reluctant to visit a desolate area.”
Source: Tony Hawk Foundation, 2013
“To emphasize how much impact our skatepark has had since its opening, I would like to note that one of the most frequent questions at our Colorado Welcome Center is now, “How do you get to the skatepark?” The volunteers at the welcome center have requested that signs be placed throughout town to guide out-of-towners to the park.
There have been, as I am told, numerous skaters from across America that have come here specifically for the purpose of trying out our new facility. I’ve heard reports from local enthusiasts that fellow riders from as far away as Maine, Vermont, Florida, Washington, Oregon, Texas, California, and Indiana have been here to skate. For a city with a population of 10,000 we are impressed with the results. Tony Hawk even stopped for a ride with his group a couple of weeks ago. Word travels fast when a world class skatepark is constructed.”
Mayor Joseph A. Reorda – Trinidad, Colorado Source: Skaters for Public Skateparks
“The immediate response to our park was overwhelming. Both the youth of our town, and visitors alike bombarded our new park each and every day. This was a huge economic boost for our town, and continues to be as this contest has put Carbondale and our skate park on the map. Never underestimate the draw that a skatepark will have on your town.
Our town has been very pleased with the economic impact that the new skatepark has brought to Carbondale. With many visitors staying here over the Summer months just to skate our park, with large contests being held here and the free advertisements that skaters pass on to each other about Carbondale, our skatepark has been exceptional for town business.”
Carbondale Recreation Coordinator Chris Woods – Carbondale, Colorado Source: Skaters for Public Skateparks