Your message depends largely on the person or group you’re talking to. Each audience will have different interests, priorities, and concerns about the new skatepark. With experience you will learn how the skatepark may relate to their various needs. There is no single message that will work for everyone. You should treat every new encounter as an opportunity to have a conversation about the new skatepark, and not just as an opportunity to launch into your “skatepark pitch.” The skatepark is important to you, and you should be clear about WHY it is, but you should also be sensitive to those things that are important to your audience and look for those ways that the new skatepark will make their lives better.
Your skatepark message — how you talk about skateboarding or the skatepark will change from day to day and from person to person, but you should always speak from the heart and not embellish facts or shy away from the truth, even if it’s embarrassing or maybe unpopular. Skateboarding ISN’T perfect and nobody really expects it to be, but neither is baseball and there are baseball diamonds all over the place. Everything you say about the skatepark doesn’t need to be great news… the more realistic and up-front you can be about your expectations and what you’re trying to accomplish, the stronger your relationships will become.
Practice talking with people about the new skatepark. That’s the best way to learn what works for you and for them.
The short-list of skatepark supporting statements tend to be rooted in one of these broad categories:
- Skateboarding is good for physical and mental health.
- Skateboarding strengthens the community.
- Skateboarding keeps kids busy, (and saves lives).
- Skateboarding is awesome.
- A skatepark is where all of this good stuff happens.
In other words, skateparks are community spaces. Anything you say that builds on this idea should work fine and you can refine your language over time and with practice. You should avoid getting into too many specifics. For example, proposing exact locations or promising specific outcomes can lead to conversations that you may not be ready to have. When you are reaching out to your community, your mission is to communicate how awesome the skatepark will be.
Here are some examples of ideas you might want to avoid:
- The skatepark will be built at First Avenue and Main Street.
- The skatepark will generate revenue and attract tourism.
- The skatepark will eliminate street skating.
The reason you are wise to avoid these topics is because it invites critical questions. For example, when you say that “skateboarding is good for physical and mental health,” the person you’re talking to will be more likely to agree that “physical and mental health” is a good thing and that skateboarding is a reasonable means to achieve it. There’s no reason to be opposed to physical and mental health. On the other hand, when you claim that the skatepark will be built on First and Main, the person you’re talking to may think to themselves, “oh, is that the best place for it?” They may ask you why it will be built there, or how that location was determined. The claim that skateboarding is good for health is good news that builds support, while a claim that the skatepark will be built at First and Main invites speculation and leads to more questions.
Eventually you will talk about specific aspects of the skatepark. By then you’ll have access to studies that reinforce your claims, and the site will have been determined using a specific process. You will be prepared to defend the skatepark details from critics, (e.g., neighbors that have inflated fears about what kind of activity the skatepark will attract), and reveal exactly how the skatepark will improve the community.
The three claims used as examples above are particularly important. The location, cost, and local issues with street skating are probably the most controversial aspects of the skatepark proposal. You should feel prepared before you begin having conversations about the cost, location, and impact on street skating.
The “revenue and tourism” argument seems tempting. You should avoid it because it hasn’t been demonstrated in any substantial way. There are certainly skateparks in North America that draw people from all over the world but if that’s your intention, you should be matching their budgets and scale. Those parks are large, impeccably designed and built, and serve larger metropolitan areas. In other words, building a skatepark designed to play a role in local tourism is a significant task that requires special language. Nearly all skateparks are meant to offer recreational opportunities for local youth (and the young at heart). Another liability to the “revenue” argument is that the skatepark is depicted as an attraction that might deserve an entrance fee when what you’re probably envisioning is a facility that is free to use.
A skatepark won’t eliminate street skating but it should help reduce it. The skatepark can work in conjunction with other mitigating practices if street skating is an issue that the skatepark is meant to address. Most communities see street skating as a good problem to have; “our local youth are engaged in recreational activities where they shouldn’t be.”
It’s best to stick to the messages with positive outcomes. You can expand on these ideas in your own words, or present on any of the other ideas in this collection of documents. What you ultimately come up with should be in your own words and from the heart.
If, after reading this, you are apprehensive about talking to the community for fear of saying something wrong, you shouldn’t worry. It is best to get out in your community and begin talking about the skatepark. That’s the most important thing. What you say exactly will change over time as you learn more and more about skateparks.