Finding the best location for the new skatepark is critical to its long-term success. There are lots of things to consider when you begin looking at different places it could go. Many advocates start with a location in mind before they ever do any real community work. We recommend approaching the “location problem” using a process that calculates certain aspects of several candidate sites. The results of these measurements can be compared to identify which of those candidate sites is most appropriate for the new skatepark.
The site evaluation process is simple. You will start by listing every potential location — even some that seem unlikely or less desirable — within city limits. These are your candidate sites. It’s better to start with more locations than you think you will need. Each candidate site will be measured independently.
You will look at each site in several specific ways. For each site you will look at how accessible it is, how active it is, how visible it is from a distance, and to what degree is encourages social interaction. There are dozens of different things you can measure but these four qualities are the most important.
Each candidate will receive a final score, with higher scoring sites being more suitable for the new skatepark than lower scoring sites.
The scores are achieved using whatever method you feel is best but it must be consistent across all of the sites. You cannot give a site more points simply because you like it best. The point of this exercise is to produce a list of sites that has been evaluated without subjective impressions or “gut feelings.”
Each thing that you decide to measure will produce a score. The higher the score, the more optimal that characteristic is at that site. For example, a site with lots of visibility might score four points while a site with almost no visibility would get only one point. When all of the sites are compared you should be able to arrange the list from “most visible to least visible.”
The simplest method for scoring your sites is to assign one to the lowest scoring site in each category up to the total number of sites for the highest scoring site. If you were comparing four sites, for example, you would give the highest scoring site four points, the second-highest three points, then two points, and the lowest-scoring site one point.
There are many ways to tweak the scoring to provide greater importance to some characteristics. For example, you might want to favor access over the other three qualities, so each measurement in the access category might get double points. Start with a simple scoring system and see what you get before you start messing with “weighing” certain aspects more heavily.
- Access: The skatepark should be at or very near the geographic center of the service area. If this is a skatepark for the town, the park should be as close as possible to the greatest number of people. A map of your community will reveal where the concentration of residents are. The skatepark should be within an easy walking (or skating) distance from those areas as most skateboarders are too young to drive. Because Access factors so importantly in a skatepark’s long-term success it has five characteristics while the others have fewer.
Residency: How many people reside within a specific radius (like a half-mile) of the candidate site? How many people can comfortably walk to the site?
Pedestrian Activity: How many people walk by the site during a typical hour (6 to 7 PM weekday evenings; 3-4 PM weekend afternoons, weather permitting)?
Sidewalks: How many sidewalks are connected to the site? How many different ways are there to approach the site?
Public Transportation: How close is the nearest public transportation station or stop? How many different ways can a person arrive at the site?
Parking: How many parking spaces are dedicated to activities at that site? Is the parking lot paved and marked?
- Activity: The candidate site should currently be used for a variety of reasons. Lots of different kinds of activities produce a fun atmosphere that people want to be in. The opposite is a space that feels desolate or empty.
Shopping: How many retail activity, (number of stores), are easily accessible from the site? How many of those stores are locally owned businesses? Is there a small market nearby?
Recreational Attractions: How many other recreational attractions does the site regularly host? Do people use the space for walking their dogs, playing softball, family picnics, and things like that?
Longevity: Is the site considered by the public to be a park? How long has it been a park?
Ages: How many different age groups, (i.e., toddlers, children, teenagers, young adults, etc.), currently use the space on a regular basis?
- Comfort: The candidate site should have amenities that support youth recreation and helps visitors feel safe. Comfortable locations have places to sit, water fountains, shade structures, restrooms, and are attractive. People like to see what kind of things are going on in an area before they enter it. The opposite is a place that feels unwelcoming or uncomfortable.
Visibility: On average, how many vehicles travel along adjacent roads per hour, on average? How many pedestrians walk within view of the candidate site per hour, on average?
Crime Statistics: How does the location rank for crime compared to the other candidate sites? Does the site “feel” safe? Would a young person feel comfortable going there alone?
Cleanliness: How many pieces of trash and/or graffiti does one find at the location? Is there a group or agency responsible for maintaining the site and do they do a good job?
- Social: The location is a social space that invites casual mingling of different types of park visitors. People in the space interact with each other in planned and unplanned ways.
Women, Children, and Elderly: How many women, young children, and elderly people are in the space in the early evening hours? How many people walk their dogs at the site?
Groups: How many other community groups use the space for their functions? How many different groups meet at the park to do their thing?
Evening Use: How many people use the space (for appropriate reasons) after sunset? Is there evening activity at the candidate site? Are there lights?
In review, if your skatepark effort is going to be controversial at all, it will probably be due to where you propose to put it. The decision to put in in one place rather than another should make sense to most everyone. (Some people will never be happy.) Using a site evaluation exercise like the one described here can help prevent or counteract NIMBY opposition.