To add to the complexity of developmental scenarios, there is another process that can introduce a whole new set of challenges. Public parks are sometimes renovated as funds become available. Perhaps a new bond or levy is passed and the Parks Department is flush with improvement dollars. The Parks Board decides that a good use of that money would be to refurbish a public park and add some new amenities that the public desires. While this opportunity may remove the need for the skateboarding community to conduct much grassroots fundraising, it can also result in the city going with low-cost solutions that fail to meet the needs of the skateboarding community.
When the city hires a landscape architect (LA) to give a public park a facelift, it follows a vetting process like those described earlier. In this case, however, a skatepark may not be specifically mentioned as part of the project.
The City hires a landscape architect to manage the park renovation using a “Request for Proposal” process. After the proposals are reviewed and the winning company is hired, the LA conducts a series of public design workshops.
The first of these meetings is generally a “fact finding” meeting to determine where the community’s interests are. This is the meeting where people come to promote their own interests, whether it’s jogging trails or tennis or off-leash dog areas. It’s VERY important that lots of skaters show up to this meeting, and any other public meetings that the LA holds regarding this project.
By the end of the first meeting, the LA will have a list of things that the public would like to see at the “new” park. This list will probably contain too many things to fit in the space, much less pay for. Tough decisions will have to be made.
The LA then creates several drawings of the “new” park. Each drawing will emphasize particular characteristics of what the community asked for. For example, one version might emphasize a “sports” park with a ball field, jogging path, and exercise stations. Another version might be more reflective and peaceful, and feature walking paths and lots of natural areas. Hopefully one or more of the versions contains a skatepark. The specific design of the skatepark won’t be indicated; it will just be an area of the park that says “skatepark.” That’s good enough for now.
In most cases, the skatepark will be the most talked about aspect of the design. The skatepark advocacy group should be packing the room with skateboarders. Unfortunately, this is also where you can expect most of the outlandish ideas about skateboarders to come out. People will introduce ideas about liability, noise, and juvenile delinquency at these meetings. It’s the LA’s job to interpret the dialog into something useful.
Finally, the LA will hold a public meeting revealing the final design. If you’ve attended all of the meetings and have been effective advocates for the skatepark, the skatepark should be included.
At this point, a number of things may happen. The LA may be retained to manage and oversee construction of the new park, or the LA will create construction documents and hand off the entire package to the City that will then put the construction of the new project out to bid. The winning bidder, a general contractor (or GC), will be responsible for “sub-contracting” a skatepark designer and/or builder to provide the skateboarding facility. Unless the skatepark advocates are very involved with the process, this is a situation that can lead to a mediocre skatepark. The GC knows that the less they spend on the skatepark, the more they can spend on other parts of the park (or set aside for cost-overruns elsewhere), so the advocates must remain vigilant and keep communicating their expectations to the City and, when appropriate, to the GC.
In terms of process, the important thing to remember here is that the GC has a lot of flexibility in whom they hire to create the skatepark. They are not as legally constrained as a city-managed project.
- Reduced need for advocacy and grassroots fundraising
- Reduced administrative load for the City
- Potential for reduced skateboarder input
- Risk of unqualified vendor involvement