Policy Overview

Every public park has policies governing its management and usage. Skateparks are no exception. In most cases the skatepark will be considered a typical park amenity just like the tennis court, and most of the skatepark rules will be applicable to all of the park attractions. The skatepark hours, for example, should be the same as the tennis court.

Typical skatepark rules include:

Skate at your own risk
This facility is not supervised
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Helmets and pads are recommended
No motor vehicles
No animals or pets
No litter
No smoking
No drugs or alcohol
No camping or fires
No events without prior approval of the Local Parks Department
For more information, contact parks@localparks.gov or call (123) 456-7890

The City of Anywhere, its officers, employees, and agents shall not be responsible for any accident, injury, and/or loss of property or damage resulting from use of this park by any individual, group, or organization.

Special policies that apply only to the skatepark are where open, public conversations need to happen.

Here are a few examples of topics that may result in rules specific to the skatepark:

Will the skatepark require helmets?
Will helmets be required for ALL skatepark visitors any time they’re at the facility?
How will it be communicated and enforced?

How will the policy’s success (or failure) be measured?
What are the repercussions of non-compliance?
Will the benefits of a particular policy outweigh the risks?

Will the skatepark be fenced?
Will there be dedicated on-site supervision?
Will waivers be required?

Will the park be closed for routine maintenance?
Will the park be closed for rules infractions?
Does the policy cost outweigh the benefits?

These decisions are often made by city employees that will not use the skatepark. These employees are well-meaning but will habitually err on the side of risk mitigation. In other words, their top priority is to establish policy that legally protects the city. Their second priority is to produce a safe and successful facility. While many Parks Directors will feel comforted by these priorities, some of the resultant policies will dampen the community’s enthusiasm for using the facility.

A city administrator’s professional wisdom, interpretation of the law, compliance with existing policy, and risk assessment puts them in a position to make unilateral decisions that could impact hundreds, if not thousands, of skatepark visitors and set the skatepark on a trajectory for success or failure. It’s critical that these decisions are made using transparent rationale and with the most trustworthy data available. For example, the core group should make an effort to coordinate with risk-assessors and decision-makers within the city to define specific goals and outcomes so that every policy and skatepark rule is grounded in a rational understanding of skateboarding activity.

Shaping policy is a great place for the core group, representing the skateboarding community’s needs, to be involved. Policy discussions should be happening throughout the process.

The skateboarding community can only engage with policy discussions to the degree in which it is prepared to learn what outcomes those policies have had in other communities. For example, if a skatepark policy is established so that the facility will be closed when there is a rules infraction, the advocacy group should investigate other communities that have implemented similar policies and learn if those policies had the desired effect. The city should be open to discussing the advocacy group’s findings.

Every skatepark policy and rule should address a specific problem. If a rule does not seek to prevent a problem, it should not be included.

Every skatepark rule should be easy to communicate and be consistently enforced.

Compliance Factors

It’s been said before: nobody really wants to criminalize skateboarding. Sometimes a policy decision is made that creates more problems than it solves.

Achieving a high level of compliance from the facility’s visitors is a goal for all skatepark administrators. It is valuable to understand that a skatepark’s rules are often introduced to a community that has been (until now) required to be noncompliant wherever they skated. Before the new skatepark, skaters were skating everywhere and thumbing their nose at the “no skateboarding” signs that exist everywhere.

This behavior is largely the result of inconsistent or over-regulation. It would be naïve to believe that skateboarders would be systematically compliant with the posted rules when, for years leading up to the skatepark, the posted rules were barely or inconsistently enforced.

It is equally naïve to expect that the new skatepark is going to draw every skater away from inappropriate places. The skatepark is a significant component of the solution but not its entirety. There will still be some instances of skaters using the popular spots around town but much less frequently. In other words, the new skatepark won’t “cure” street skating completely but it will help.

Unpopular skatepark policy can result in more skaters returning to the unsanctioned street spots around town.

For example, a community might support the skatepark as a means of reducing risk to its youth by providing a safe place for them to recreate. However, that same intention results in a policy that helmets are required at the skatepark. Because the helmet policy is only applicable in the skatepark, a skater that chooses not to wear a helmet may either use the skatepark and risk a ticket or return to their favorite street spots where a helmet is not required. The community’s intention to provide a safe place to skate has been undermined by the very policy that is meant to make skaters safer. The skatepark in this situation is not performing as well as it might due to its policy.

Two policies are specifically challenging. Mandatory helmets and BMX prohibition. Raising levels of compliance in these matters is difficult but not insurmountable.

Smoking, illicit drug use, and graffiti issues are more common where the skatepark location is remote. Youth are drawn to the skatepark because it’s cool and popular, but when they lack the skill to interact directly with the space as intended, (they don’t have skateboarding experience, for example), they’ll find other ways to “belong” in the space. If your community lacks many teen options, a remote skatepark can serve as the town’s only hangout… and that can result in challenges if the facility does not have lots of broader community interaction.

The key to achieving compliance in any policy lies in the degree of trust between the City and the local skateboarders. Unlike traditional sports, skateboarding communities generally lack a hierarchical social structure and designated authority figures. A trusted relationship must be achieved through open communication and a consistent pattern of reasonable decisions that work for all stakeholders.

A good way that a City can establish trust with its local skateboarding community is to consult with them when policies are being determined. Keeping the policy’s goals in focus can results in skatepark policies and rules that work for the city and the skaters.

Public workshops and brainstorming sessions can provide opportunities for the local skateboarding community to offer their ideas and alternative methods for reaching those community goals. It is appropriate for the city or the advocacy group to organize a meeting to discuss issues around skateboarding and the skatepark, though it will be more significant if the core group takes the lead on these discussions; it will demonstrate that the skateboarding community is taking these concerns seriously.

Drawing skateboarders to a policy meeting can be a daunting task for a city administrator. Posting meeting notices at the skatepark, or even conducting the event AT the skatepark, can improve skater participation.

At your policy meetings start with the paramount goal. These should be easy for everyone to agree on.

  • The skatepark should remain clean and attractive
  • The skatepark should be reasonably safe for everyone
  • Negative behavior should be kept to a minimum
  • The skatepark should serve as a point of pride for the whole community

These points of agreement serve as the basis for a deeper discussion.

  • How do we collectively keep the park clean and attractive?
  • How do we encourage skaters to recreate safely?
  • What kinds of behavior (and how much of it) do we find acceptable or unacceptable?
  • What can we do to improve the perception of the skatepark among the general public?

This is where you will begin to build consensus. As stated before, when the City introduces a policy that the skaters fundamentally disagree with, it is not likely to earn widespread compliance. This can lead to an increase of citations and reflect negatively on all skateboarders and the skatepark. Unpopular policies can also expose impetuous youth to legal risk.

The City may find itself in the unsavory position of inflexible policy requirements that aren’t likely to sit well with local skateboarders. These should be communicated frankly, and their non-negotiable character shared. Without these clear explanations, the local skaters are likely to perceive these rules as arbitrary fixtures that can be arbitrarily ignored.

It’s particularly critical that skatepark rules do not contain unenforceable or unclear rules. Including rules that can be widely interpreted will only undermine those rules that are considered absolute requirements by the City. For example, if rule #1 states, “Helmets must be worn at all times” and rule #2 states, “be respectful to yourself and others,” skaters will take the most liberal interpretation of both rules collectively. Because “respecting yourself and others” cannot be clearly defined, it will be dismissed… and if one rule can be dismissed, why not two? Keep your skatepark rules simple and unambiguous.