There are few qualities as important for the success of the new skatepark as its location. Where it goes will determine how easily it is to get to, how many people will interact with it, how busy it will be, and what kinds of things people might do when they are there. When a skatepark is put in a bad location, it can lead to poor behavior at the facility and reflect poorly on local skaters (even if they aren’t responsible for problems).
The best location for the skatepark is one where it is around other public activity and not hidden away in some corner of a park or on the outskirts of town. You probably have ideas about where the new skatepark should go, and as you talk about the new skatepark the question about its location will come up frequently. People often want to know how much it will cost and where it will go.
Even though you have ideas about the best location for the park, it’s better to avoid talking about specific locations publicly. You will eventually need to talk about the skatepark’s proposed location but you should delay that series of conversations until you are prepared.
Why Location is Controversial
You can know that there are some people in your community that love skateparks and others that hate them. Most people have never given skateparks much thought.
While you are building community awareness about the skatepark project, most of your conversations will be about the health and community benefits of having a safe, designated place to skate. The point of these conversations is to leave a positive impression on your listener about skateboarding and skateparks. You want them to walk away thinking, “that skatepark sounds like a pretty good idea!”
Sometimes people will already have opinions about skateboarding and skateparks. One person might have skated when they were younger and think skateboarding is great. Another person might have had a negative experience with a person on a skateboard and now believes that skateboarders are belligerent and antisocial.
Some of these opinions you can improve on and others probably not. Where you decide to put your energy is up to you but a good rule of thumb is to always “keep it positive.” If you find that a person is being unreasonable in their criticism of skateboarders and skateparks, they probably aren’t going to change their minds based on anything you might say.
Skateboarding can be polarizing for a community. Some people see kids being healthy, working on tricks, and getting outside. Others see kids ignoring “no skateboarding” rules, causing property damage, and making noise. These different perspectives come into contact with each other as soon as you start talking about where the skatepark will go. In other words, the skatepark you’d like to see in town probably won’t be controversial to anyone UNTIL you begin talking about where it will go.
This is why it’s a good idea to avoid talking about the skatepark location for as long as possible. This gives you more time to talk about the benefits of skateboarding and skateparks in general — improving public opinion in the process — without drawing out the voices that will hate the skatepark because they either don’t understand it or are afraid that it will be an eyesore or a nuisance if it’s built near their house.
The term “NIMBY” is often used to describe people that will reject the idea of a capital improvement (like a skatepark) simply because it’s being proposed near their home. NIMBY stands for “Not In My Backyard” and is considered a derogatory term for residents that will oppose any change in the vicinity of their home. You shouldn’t call someone a NIMBY to their face or use the term in a public setting, but among your group of skatepark supporters it’s fine. You may hear the term brought up in public settings from time to time. NIMBYs are everywhere and will spring up in meetings and on social media to oppose the skatepark project.
A small number of NIMBYs and skatepark opponents can delay or even stop a skatepark effort. You should be very careful how you manage your interactions with them. NIMBYs often show themselves on online newspaper articles’ comments sections. When they’re online they can be as disruptive as they like. It doesn’t matter that you’ve spent a year or more working to get the skatepark approved. One NIMBY can come along and claim whatever outlandish thing they like and there’s nothing you can do about it, but you can prevent it from happening by avoiding any discussion of the skatepark’s location until it’s necessary.