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Formal and Informal Agreements

In the world of skatepark advocacy you will encounter a broad spectrum of agreements. On the casual end of the spectrum you may find people agreeing with your statement. On the other end of the spectrum, the agreement might be a formal contract that states something will be done in exchange for something else. At the beginning of your advocacy effort, the agreements will be casual, but when real assets are involved, (like money, land, materials, or manpower), the agreements will become more formal.

The earliest agreement between the city or Parks Department and the skateboarding community isn’t a binding contract in the traditional sense. Every skatepark project has its own unique quality; some skatepark efforts are a large, collaborative partnership between the skaters and the local government, while others may be more formal and have specific requirements that each party must meet. The first significant agreement is that the city will be willing to work with the skateboarding community and vice versa. This is a casual agreement.

Casual agreements have the benefit of flexibility and can reinforce the trusted partnership between the city and the skateboarding community. Casual agreements can also be modified, for better or for worse, without any warning or reason. The city doesn’t want to dedicate resources to finding and applying for grants, prepare community outreach meetings, and research skatepark development if the skateboarding community is going to walk away from its commitment. And the skaters don’t want to put in the hard work of raising money for the skatepark only to have the city later decide they can’t fulfill their end of the bargain.

Later, your project will require true commitments. Nobody wants to waste their time and money pursuing an opportunity unless they’re sure that all of the stake-holders are on board. This is where the agreements become more formal.

Formal agreements provide the benefit of a clear, detailed expectation by all of the skatepark project collaborators. While a legally binding agreement is irregular, anything on record is generally enough to hold a group accountable. The more specific and overt this agreement can be communicated, the more binding it becomes. By formalizing and frequently clarifying the expectations put on both parties, the opportunity to claim “misunderstanding” as a reason for not meeting one’s side of the bargain is reduced.

Having your City Council take a vote during a public meeting is a formal agreement. You might aim for this conclusion at particular stages in the skatepark development. For example, City Council may formally approve the creation of a skatepark steering committee, approve the final site, and certainly the allocation of money from the general fund.

What your project’s fundraising agreement looks like is up to you and your liaisons in the city. You might prefer something in writing, or perhaps it will be an ongoing and ever-changing collaborative effort. Both formats have advantages and disadvantages, and there’s no clear benefit to one over the other.

The appropriate formal agreement for situations where the stakes are high is known as a Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU. The most formal agreement is a Memorandum of Agreement, or MOA. The MOU and MOA are interchangeable, though the MOU is less formal and not legally binding. The MOU is used to document an understanding between two or more parties that defines what they will be mutually working for. The MOU is like a formal handshake. If your partnership with the city will specifically mention the transfer of funds, an MOA is more suitable. An MOA is an agreement based on certain conditions. It’s not common for a skatepark advocacy group to enter into an MOA, but MOUs are a little more common… particularly if the skatepark group is raising money on behalf of the Parks Department directly and not acting as an independent nonprofit organization or working with a non-governmental fiscal sponsor.

Your MOU will contain the following information:

  • The overarching goal of the partnership (the creation of a new public skatepark).
  • What agencies or organizations are involved (“Town Skatepark Committee” and the city).
  • The purpose of the MOU and what it is meant to improve or prevent (the coordination of efforts between the two entities).
  • How the MOU will be updated, if necessary.

Your MOA will contain the following information:

  • All of the information in an MOU, plus…
  • Financial roles, goals, and schedule.

Neither an MOU or an MOA is required to begin fundraising. Most skatepark efforts do just fine without either document. Most skateparks are created through simple meetings without any specific documentation between the various groups.

The primary purpose of an agreement, whether it’s an MOU or just a casual understanding, is that the skateboarding community will be responsible for some portion of the skatepark costs and the city will be responsible for the remainder. How that agreement is documented is up to you, your group, and the city, according to your comfort levels and scope of the project.

Sample Fundraising MOU

Date

Smallville Skatepark Association

The Smallville Skatepark Association (SSA) was formed in 2013 by a group of adult and youth skateboarders, bikers, their parents and other interested members of the Smallville community. The primary goal of the SSA is to improve Smallville’s facilities for skateboarding and other action wheel sports (BMX biking, in-line skating, scootering) by raising funds for constructing and maintaining a new state-of-the-art skatepark in Smallville.

The SSA Board of Directors includes skateboarding adults, youth skateboarders, BMX bikers and parents of athletes.  Members of the SSA include sports participants from Smallville and nearby unincorporated areas.

The current SSA Board of Directors includes:

President: Clark Kent, Smallville
Vice-president: Lois Lane, Smallville
Treasurer: Lex Luthor, Super County
Secretary: Dr. Doom, Smallville

The SSA has been active since its inception in repairing the existing skatepark, including concrete repairs in joints and gaps, repair of existing structural elements such as replacing and repairing the concrete benches, repairing and replacing the rails, and removing graffiti. The SSA has conducted regular clean-ups to remove trash from the skatepark and its vicinity and has organized a structure for more continuous monitoring of maintenance and clean-up needs.

Smallville “Together We Can”

The SSA is a project of Smallville’s “Together We Can, Inc. (STWC),” a private, nonprofit corporation dedicated to promoting a safe and healthy environment for all Smallville’s residents.

STWC, acting through the Smallville Skatepark Association agrees to assist the Town of Smallville in the maintenance of the Town’s skatepark facilities at Central Park Fields thereby creating a volunteer body such that reduced costs of maintenance are to be incurred by the Town of Smallville. It is estimated that annual costs associated with this effort to be at or less than $1,000.

It is to be accomplished set forth by the following:

Fundraising for the continued maintenance of the skatepark including but not limited to private donations, T-shirt sales, skate camps, skate contests, sticker sales, and grant applications.

Maintain the Smallville Skatepark by keeping the site clean, placing trash in the receptacles provided by the town and expeditiously removing any graffiti that appears with solvent(s) or equivalent.

Maintain the proposed new skatepark and the existing skatepark, including repairs to the surface and structural elements of the park, and replacing structures as needed.

 Establish an Oversight Committee to ensure that the cleaning and maintenance responsibilities of the SSA are carried out on a regular basis and timely fashion in perpetuity. The Oversight Committee consists of at least one member of the SSA Board of Directors and 3 members of the SSA who are responsible for establishing a rotating schedule for overseeing cleaning and maintenance at the skatepark.  The Oversight Committee currently consists of (the following individuals, with contact information).  These members are responsible for frequent checks of the existing park and the new park once built.