The first action your core group should take is to present your skatepark vision to City Council. Your core group may not have any experience working with local government or getting skateparks built. You’re going to need some help from the city. You should introduce your group and its goals (the new skatepark) as soon as possible. The best way to do this is to attend your local City Council (or Town Hall) meeting.
The location and time for City Council meetings are found on your town’s website. For your first City Council meeting you won’t need a lot of supporters to show up. It’s better if just the core group attends this first one. You will probably go to lots of City Council meetings throughout the course of the skatepark project and sometimes you may want to arrive with lots of skaters and skatepark supporters. At first, however, you can keep it small.
The first time the core group communicates with City Council it will probably be through the “public comment” period of the meeting. When you arrive at the meeting, you should see a sign-in sheet. Sign that and look for a place where you would indicate that you want to talk to the assembly. If you don’t check that box, wherever it is, your name won’t be called and the City Council will never find out why you’re there.
Once you’re signed in and have indicated that you’d like to speak, you’re all set. Have a seat, watch the meeting, and wait for your name to be called during the “public comment” period.
You won’t need to present bring any graphics or printed material. It’s much simpler than that. You will step up to the microphone and tell the City Council who you are and what you are trying to do. You’ll share with them the importance of the new skatepark and that you and you group are committed to seeing it built.
“Hello City Council members. My name is ____________ and I live __________. For years I’ve been getting my exercise and making friends through skateboarding. It’s very important to me and I enjoy it a lot. I’m here tonight representing our new community group, Skaters for a New Skatepark. Our goal is to provide local youth with a place to have fun, be active, and challenge themselves in a safe and sanctioned area. We feel that this is the best town to grow up in but it would be even better with a new skatepark. We’d like to coordinate our efforts with the City to ensure that we are successful in this effort and that the new skatepark is as good as it can possibly be. Thank you!
The reasons for the new skatepark can be brief. You’re not trying to win a court case; you just need to let them know what you’re up to and that you would like to establish some kind of working partnership with the city.
After introducing your group and its mission, you should introduce the idea that you’d like to be meeting with someone from the city that can help you and your group better understand the process from the city’s point of view.
A good finisher is to ask that the City would be willing to work with your group directly to work on a process outline so that the skateboarding community can quickly get to work on this important project.
If the city is willing to have a liaison meet with your group, you now have a new cluster of people that can really help move the skatepark project forward. This new group will be members of your core group and someone from the city. This is often called a skatepark steering committee.
The steering committee might meet twice a month, (every two weeks), and will plot out the next steps required to move the skatepark project forward. The steering committee will essentially be asking the same type of questions again and again:
What is the next step to getting a skatepark built in our town?
There are a few things you probably won’t want to bring up at your first City Council meeting.
The best location should be determined by a site-selection study that the group will propose later and will be presented to the City as a list of your group’s recommendations. (You can also provide specific site-selection criteria beforehand, for Council review.) Bringing up locations too early in the process can lead to neighbors in that area opposing the skatepark before you’ve had a chance to talk to them directly about skateboarding and skateparks, (they’ll be relying on their own ideas about the types of people that like riding skateboards… for better or worse).
The price of the skatepark will be presented throughout the process as increasingly accurate estimates for City Council review. Fundraising will be initially conducted by the group and continue until the City is in a position to provide support. Local governments everywhere are struggling to do everything they want with limited funds. The last thing they need is another expensive project in their lap. Avoid talking about specific costs until later, after you’ve had time to develop a better skatepark plan.
Who specifically pays for it
The community fundraising effort will be managed by the core group and its community of supporters. You will need to coordinate with the city eventually.
Economic benefit (e.g., tourism)
The immediate benefits to the local economy are difficult to predict and are the result of several key decisions along the way. The long-term economic benefits will result from more youth engaged in regular physical activity, civic engagement, community-building, and so on.
The city council is usually happy to see people getting involved with local government and should be eager to help. In general, smaller towns are more excited about working with the community than larger cities. Larger cities, by comparison, generally have an easier time with fundraising than smaller or rural communities.
The city council may be unwilling to commit any staff to regularly attend steering committee meetings. If that’s the case, it’s okay. You’ll be asking for their involvement throughout the process. If they decline the steering committee, then you can simply ask them if it would be okay if you returned regularly with updates. (They can’t say because city council meetings are open to the public. You are merely asking to be polite; you don’t need their permission.)
Your steering committee’s tasks will include things like:
- Outlining a process for selecting a location
- Creating fundraising strategy
- Identifying procedural requirements for a public bid process
- Coordinating efforts between skatepark volunteers and city, as needed
- Identifying immediate barriers and options for working through them
At the end of every steering committee meeting you should have a short list of things that will be done before the next steering committee meeting. Try not to leave any meeting without a clear understanding of what everyone has agreed to do before the next meeting.
Topics discussed in steering committee meetings can be good content for sharing on social media.