How Can I Get A Skatepark Built In My Hometown?
The best asset for getting a skatepark built in your city or community is knowledge. Educate yourself on the benefits that a skatepark will bring to your town, city or community. Then, take that information to your local government; Parks and Recreation Board, City Council, Mayor, etc… Gather support for your project and it will happen.
Why are skateparks beneficial to communities?
The easy answer is that they provide a place for kids who aren’t attracted to traditional team sports a place to go and express themselves in an individual and athletic manner. Getting kids, particularly at-risk kids, involved in a personal and esteem-building activity like skateboarding helps them build the confidence to do well in other aspects of their lives. Tony knows this because that’s what skateboarding did for him. That’s why he started the Tony Hawk Foundation–to help today’s kids by helping their communities build quality public skateparks. The 13-million skateboarders in America only have about 2,000 skateparks nationwide. That means the vast majority of them are skating in the streets. Skateparks, even the more challenging ones, are far safer than kids rolling through busy streets. And when parks are built right–with local skater input and involvement throughout the process–those youngsters develop a sense of ownership and pride. The very existence of the park is the result of their hard work. They worked with civic and local business leaders, with each other on design elements, and with the community to find a suitable location. These previously disenfranchised skaters, who once ran from the police, find themselves working with the police and city and community as a whole. It’s a transformational process for these young people. It might be useful to survey kids in your area.
Ask them if they currently use the athletic fields and ball courts your city offers, and if they’d like to have a skatepark as well. You’ll be surprised to find out how many kids who aren’t interested in traditional sports would jump at the chance to skate a good park, or have the opportunity to learn to. Some of the information on this Web site, like the “How To Get A Skatepark In Your Home Town” guide, may answer a lot of other questions for you.
One of the great things about skateboarding is how it brings members of the community together. On any given day at a well-functioning and supported skatepark, you can see all age groups, from the 5 year old supervised by a parent, to the group of teenagers having their own skate session, to the older skaters who love the sport as much or more than the teens. In public recreation areas where there are other amenities such as baseball and soccer fields, playground, picnic areas, tennis courts, and indoor swim and workout areas, the skatepark tends to get the most traffic and use.
How can we foster responsibility and stewardship for the skatepark among all our public areas? What benefits the skatepark and the community around it the most is a few dedicated skateboarders who use the park and administer its programs. Every local area has at least one skateboarder who wants to share their love of skateboarding and cares very much for the park itself. These are the people who make the best skateboard coaches and skatepark stewards. Giving them responsibility for the kids and the skatepark is a very positive move that can bring more families and skatepark users together.
Benefits of a skatepark
A professionally designed concrete skatepark will:
• Provide a safe challenging place for skateboarding (and similar extreme sports), allowing participants to develop as athletes
• Provide an alternative to team sports, to develop motor skills & balance in youth and the young-at-heart. Playgrounds are provided for younger children, but for older youth who don’t participate in team sports, there is often nothing.
• Attract visitors (skatepark enthusiasts & spectators) who enjoy skateboarding & similar extreme sports. When people visit they spend money!
• Make community more youth-friendly & give youth the message that they’re accepted & valued members of the community, by giving them a place to call their own & a creative outlet to express themselves
• Provide opportunity for healthy activity for youth, helping curb problems of inactivity & drug abuse (According to local Addiction Services, the most common reason given by youth for drug abuse is boredom.)
• Provide opportunities to host jams (competitions), presenting skating in a format that people can understand & appreciate. Skateboarding is a great spectator sport!
• Provide opportunities for “hard to reach, non-joining youth” to get involved in the community & foster creativity as each skater develops his own personal style and skills
According to veteran skateboarder Dan Hughes (2), “Skateboarding reaches these “at risk” youth, like no other sport. And it’s cool too. But, people are out of touch with what is happening, and just want to get these annoying skateboarders out of their hair. All the while, kids are learning that as skaters they are second-class citizens. Yet, it’s these same skateboarders who are learning a valuable work ethic. Because, believe me, if you don’t work hard and commit to a trick, you won’t land it. They also learn how to work independently, and also how to be creative, and develop their own style.” (Email, March 2007)
• Provide social opportunities by bringing different ages and social groups together, encouraging interaction and appreciation of each other; bring families together who enjoy skating as a family
• Empower youth by involving them fully in the process of establishing the park, enabling them to work with community elders, learning how government works & how they can become more active citizens
• Encourage youth to interact independently & develop socially, learning how to take turns & help each other learn new tricks
• Mitigate street skating problems, protecting private & public property from damage & reducing police time required to follow up on complaints. For example, 75% of 24 communities surveyed by the City of Calgary in 1998, after the skatepark opened, reported a significant reduction in the skate problem.
• Reduce pressure on hospitals as a result of reduced injuries from skating on rough surfaces and in traffic areas, i.e. street-skating. (According to Health Canada, only 5% of skateboarding injuries take place in skateparks.)
• Provide a healthy release for pent-up aggression & frustration
• Teach the importance of a positive attitude & belief in oneself. To progress in skateboarding, one must trust oneself & believe that they can do it!
• Benefit StFX University because many university students would use the skatepark
• Provide economic benefits.
According to the Antigonish RDA: “Community Access to a variety of recreational opportunities encourages business investment from outside the community, acts as a driver for immigration, and encourages resident retention (particularly among youth). Destination marketing and tourism development are closely tied with the number and quality of recreation activities developed and available.”
A skatepark would fit well into Antigonish’s established slogan of “Visit, Stay, Work and Play.”
Thanks to Jim Barnum of Spectrum Skateparks for many of the above ideas.
Are kids at skateparks exposed to drug use and other negative influences like foul language?
“The misconception that skateparks somehow contribute to juvenile delinquency is one we’re researching. Unfortunately we don’t have any hard data at this time. We’re working on some studies right now, but it may be some time before we have anything definitive to share on the social effects of skateparks on communities.
My general observations are that skaters need to be focused and alert, particularly in a skatepark setting, to maintain their balance and to perform the maneuvers they do. Skateboarding, by its very nature, is an anti-drug. So it’s safe to say that a skatepark full of kids is a skatepark full of kids not getting stoned.
Tony Hawk and I first met at a skatepark. We were 14 years old, and many of the other skaters there were in their late teens, some in their twenties. They all took us under their wing, showing us new maneuvers in the pool, as well as just befriending a couple skinny young kids. These guys were from age groups that, at our high school, wouldn’t give us the time of day. But at the skatepark we were all skaters. It was our home away from home, and the locals were our extended family.
It was in this atmosphere that Tony developed his talent and healthy level-headed approach to his life and career. Of course his family and his own natural talents had a lot to do with his success, but the skatepark was where he focused and developed his abilities.
It was this positive skatepark experience that inspired him to launch the Tony Hawk Foundation. With the Foundation, Tony, the staff, and the Board of Directors are helping communities develop the same positive environments he and I had when we were young skaters. A skatepark is a place where skaters get together and enjoy the space, the camaraderie, and the physical thrill of riding. An outdoor, open, highly visible location – as most skateparks are – is not the place to bully kids, use drugs, or be a nuisance. Skaters are there for a reason, and in my experience they’re very good at policing each other about behavior that interferes with their enjoying the park.
I know of one skatepark where the skaters have had trouble with non-skating drug users and delinquents showing up there. In that case, the city made the mistake of placing the park up on a bluff, behind a row of trees, and away from the street. It’s a secluded spot that the delinquents used before the park was built, so the park simply gave them something to watch while they did their business. It’s an unfortunate situation, but it’s one that the skaters suffer from, rather than created themselves.
A well-built skatepark that reflects the needs of the local skaters is a hive of creative, physical activity, a place where kids and adults who enjoy skateboarding come together and are focused on their sport. It’s an inherently positive institution, and that’s why Tony, myself, the THF staff, and our Board of Directors do what we can to help communities realize the skatepark of their dreams. We know firsthand what benefits a community and the individual skaters enjoy as a result of having one.”
Miki Vuckovich Executive Director, Tony Hawk Foundation
More Interesting Reading
Skateboarding and rollerblading are two of the fastest growing activities in the United States with more than 14 million participants. Most skaters ride wherever they can — in the streets, sidewalks and parking lots, and just about anywhere they aren’t chased from.
Community groups and civic leaders have identified skateparks as an answer to the lack of suitable places to ride. In recent years, hundreds of municipalities have come to embrace the recreational and societal benefits of skateparks, and three new skateparks are built every week in the U.S.
Skateparks, even the more challenging ones, are far safer than kids rolling through busy streets, and there is a lot less damage to picnic tables and other items throughout the community that skateboarders use as obstacles when they ride. In addition, when parks are built right — with local skater input and involvement throughout the process — the kids develop a sense of ownership and pride for the location.
Skateparks provide a place for skaters to go and practice the sport they love with friends. It gives them the opportunity to improve, to achieve small victories on a daily basis, to grow more confident in themselves and their own abilities, and allows them to dream of possibly becoming a “Tony Hawk” someday.