How you choose to talk about the skatepark project will depend on what you feel is most relevant to your audience. A detailed plan is not required for effective advocacy, but you’ll need to understand the platforms your skatepark project rests on. There are many different kinds of skateparks, but there are a few positive things they all have in common:
Skateparks are Recreational Facilities
Skateparks are places for recreation. We need skateparks for the same reasons we need playgrounds, baseball fields, and basketball courts. The skatepark project can follow the same development process—and should be met with the same amount of support from the local Parks Department—as these other common recreational facilities.
The “skatepark as a recreational facility” largely addresses public health and safety topics.
Skateparks are Community Spaces
Skateparks are places for gathering. We need skateparks for the same reasons we need open plazas and park spaces. Communities form where people get out of their cars and talk to each other. The overall sociability of an area improves when people can interact. Youth, in particular, benefit most from positive, unplanned encounters with adults.
The “skatepark as community space” tends to address economic development and quality of life topics.
As you get familiar with both aspects of the skatepark, you will be able to provide a better picture of what the skatepark will bring to the community.
There are two other characteristics of the skatepark that you might consider, though they are invoked less often:
Skateparks are Economic Development Engines
Skateparks attract youth from the area, and that human activity will attract even more people. The skatepark can become a component of a larger plan to incubate foot traffic and build a vital, social space. Some Main Street business coalitions call this a “feet on the street” economic development initiative that aims to get people out of their cars where they can do some window-shopping.
Skateparks are a Component of Public Safety
On average, one skateboarder a week dies in the United States as a result of a skateboarding-related accident. (Skaters for Public Skateparks’ Fatality Study) Nearly all of these tragedies occur in the streets, and a majority of them involve a motor vehicle. Skateparks draw skateboarders away from traffic and can be considered a valuable component of a public safety initiative. Advocates should be cautious about over-using this characterization of skateparks because it can create strong associations between skateboarding and impressions of “risk.” Skateparks are statistically safer than basketball courts, and so drawing these connections between skateparks and these tragic deaths should not be taken lightly.
You will learn how to effectively manage these descriptions more thoroughly in later sections.