No concern is more vocally expressed during public meetings about skatepark locations than noise. Residents that live on busy arterials or adjacent to train tracks often rally against proposed skateparks for fear that the noise will demolish their comfort and obliterate property values. In almost every case, once the skatepark is open, these fears go unrealized and those impassioned concerns evaporate.
In some cases skateparks can be noisy, but the definition of “noise” is unclear. They’re noisy like playgrounds or other recreational attractions. From skateparks you hear people applauding good tricks and the clack of skateboards popping against the ground. What you don’t hear is the kind of shrill, sustained cacophony that skatepark opponents imagine. Skatepark noise, according to every study conducted on the subject, consistently falls well below ordinary recreational standards and is completely appropriate for residential areas.
One of the earliest and most comprehensive skatepark noise studies was conducted by the City of Portland, Oregon in 2001. The chief noise officer for the Portland Sheriff’s department concluded in a report that skateboarding noise was negligible at 50 feet but that sharp sounds from some tricks (like ollies) could reach 65 to 71 decibels; about the sound of a bat hitting a ball. Other tricks (like grinds) reach between 54 to 65 decibels. A skatepark is about as “noisy” as a playground.
For context, here are some other average decibel readings:
10: Threshold of good hearing
40: Household noise
50: Office noise
60: Conversational speech
70: Normal street noise
85: Noisy restaurant
100: Passing truck
115: Football game
130: Threshold of physical pain
Some unfortunate exceptions exist, and those are the result of decisions made early in the development process. Steel ramps are notoriously loud. The nature of their forms create a sort of drum so that every landing made on their surface reverberates through the structure. Only one skatepark manufacturer in the nation is currently marketing prefabricated steel skateparks, and evidence suggests that few communities are buying them. (The communities that are unwise enough to purchase them struggle with noise, rust, and a host of other problems.)
There are several approaches to noise mitigation. They are introduced to a skatepark project often as a way of appeasing concerned neighbors. Landscaping and earthworks are a terrific way of reducing fear of noise, and can provide additional benefits by beautifying the area surrounding the skatepark. Positioning the skatepark in such a way as to orient sound-reflecting walls away from nearby residents is another. A professional skatepark designer should be experienced in managing these types of concerns.