Your First Steps

Before you can present the need for a new community skatepark, you’ll need to understand a little bit about what skateparks are and how they’re created.

Modern skateparks are as diverse as the urban and natural environments they draw inspiration from. They feature deep, undulating forms, have geometric and blocky structures, and look like concrete playgrounds to people accustomed to finding their recreational outlets in the wild. Skateparks are reflections in concrete of structures and shapes found around your community; a picnic table, a swimming pool, a wave, a handrail. Skateparks interpret and improve upon those structures that have been attracting thrill-seekers for decades. Modern skateparks are designed to attract skaters that are currently drawn to structures around your community by mimicking and improving on those forms.

As skatepark design becomes better understood, and skateboarders’ interests and abilities change, skateparks evolve and mature. Forms found in skateparks go in and out of fashion, but most structures are perennial favorites that are consistently found in most skateparks. These basic forms are the building blocks of modern skatepark design.

Built in 2001, the skatepark in Renton, WA was one of the earliest to incorporate larger natural elements in its design. Image courtesy: Waymarking.com

Built in 2001, the skatepark in Renton, WA was one of the earliest to incorporate larger natural elements in its design.
Image courtesy: Waymarking.com

Skatepark materials also continue to improve. Contemporary designs use concrete, granite, brick, boulders, and even ceramic, marble, and glass. Many are beautifully landscaped and suggest a tranquil environment by their use of green islands, water features, and other natural elements. Other skateparks are designed like sporting arenas and have bleachers, lights, concessions, and on-site advertising. The materials and artistry of these facilities reflect their community’s desires and expectations.

In the southern regions, skateparks have shade structures. In the north, some skateparks are covered so they can be used when it’s raining. Some skateparks are treated like monuments to urban street-culture and are galleries for local graffiti talent, while others are cleaned meticulously and look as new as the day they opened.

When we talk about skateparks, we are talking about all of these places.

The one thing all skateparks have in common is that they are sanctioned places where people can to go skate safely.

We know that skateboarding does not require a skatepark. A person can ride a skateboard just about anywhere. Skateboarders are constantly looking for terrain that helps them improve their abilities. Skatepark designers are constantly building new types of structures to meet the expanding needs of skateboarders. The best skateparks in the world meet the needs of tomorrow’s skaters, and those skating today.

Skateboards themselves—the boards, trucks and wheels—have been improved and adapted for different styles of riding. Most skateboards are symmetrical and resemble large popsicle sticks with upturned ends. Some are wider and longer, have larger wheels, and serve as inexpensive, convenient urban transportation. There are special boards specifically for slalom racing. Pocket cruisers are half-sized skateboards that easily fit in a backpack or school locker. There are “luge”-style boards that the skater rides while lying down that can reach speeds in excess of 50 miles per hour. These types of skateboarding don’t require skateparks, but they all need a place that is sanctioned by the community for skating and away from motor vehicles. The focus of this book, however, is to address the needs of most skaters: those that need a skatepark.

Skateparks come in all sizes. Some communities are seeing value in the smallest possible amount of terrain for skateboarding, (the “skate spot“), as a way of creating linkage between larger skateboarding facilities. Most communities envision a neighborhood skatepark, but a handful of cities have built magnificent destination skateparks that have international draw. Each type of skatepark has its unique strengths and weaknesses and it is up to you and your community to explore which sizes and styles are right for your needs.

There are several things you can do today to launch your new skatepark effort.

  1. Check out your city or town’s website and find out when and where your next city council meeting is. It will probably be at City Hall or your local municipal building.
  2. Create a Google+ account. This will provide you with access to shared documents, an online calendar, virtual meetings, and so on. These will be handy tools for getting organized.
  3. Get in touch with friends and family that may be interested in helping with this effort. This project will take between one to four years to complete, but the more preparation you put in now, the more efficient this project will come together.