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.transworld.net 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