There are lots of ways to promote skateboarding and the new skatepark. As a skatepark advocate you’ll be talking about the benefits of skateboarding and the skatepark in lots of different ways. What you specifically talk should be appropriate to the audience’s interests and the goals of the skatepark effort. You’ll face questions and encounter a lot of misconceptions about skateboarding. If the idea of answering skatepark questions makes you nervous, don’t worry. You can always answer with something like:
“I’m not sure but I’ll find out and get back to you.”
Here are some of the most common questions that people will have about skateboarding and the skatepark along with one or more effective answers. Many of the questions here are answered more thoroughly in other chapters.
Where do we begin?
It’s best to start your effort with a plan for reaching each milestone within the process.
- The first milestone is getting the city’s support for the project.
- The second milestone is launching your community awareness campaign. (You might do this before getting the city’s support.)
- The third milestone is concluding the site-selection process.
- The fourth milestone is procuring a fiscal sponsor.
- The fifth milestone is launching your fundraising campaign.
Beyond this point the skatepark project is largely outside of the advocates’ hands.
How much community support do we need?
The paramount goal of any advocacy effort that requires public support is to create a local social movement. A lack of public support will threaten your momentum and the city’s inclination to support the project. You will want lots of positive excitement for the skatepark. There is no such thing as “too much public support.”
The minimum amount of public support the skatepark project needs is hard to say because every community is unique and public support is difficult to quantify. Additionally there are different kinds of support. Some people may support the skatepark “in theory” as long as it meets certain expectations, but are otherwise unwilling to demonstrate that support in any tangible way. Other supporters may write letters, donate goods or services, or even contribute money.
How much resistance to the skatepark will we face?
No skatepark was ever created without at least a little resistance. There are different ways that a person or a group of people can oppose your skatepark vision. The kind of resistance they put in front of the project largely depends on their resources and relationships. The quantity of resistance you face is much less relevant than the quality of the resistance. An influential person in your community can delay a skatepark project with broad public support indefinitely. A single person with a mission to obstruct the skatepark will produce more delays than a community that is neutral about the project.
You are unlikely to encounter any resistance to the skatepark project until a specific site is proposed. The source of resistance will often be stakeholders in that candidate location. For example, a person may be enthusiastic about a new skatepark so that young people have something positive to do, but as soon as the skatepark is proposed for across the street to their house they could become the project’s biggest foe. For this reason we recommend postponing any public conversations that suggest specific sites for the skatepark for as long as possible. Site-based conversations should be limited to those people that are committed to seeing a successful skatepark until public approval of the best site is necessary.
What are the principle challenges we will face?
The biggest challenge to skatepark development is money. This is true for any capital improvement project, (that is, any major project that the city is dedicating resources to). It’s possible to encounter city council members that don’t see a new skatepark as a community priority. They may not want to overtly reject the notion of a new skatepark and discourage the advocates so they may say that the city simply can’t afford it. This is a nice way of saying no.
The second biggest challenge is building influence. Skateparks are unique because they directly serve a segment of the public that lacks political power and fundraising experience. Skatepark advocates represent people with very little political power. The challenged faced by every skatepark advocacy group is finding the best way to amplify the skateboarding youth’s contribution and value to the community.
The third biggest challenge is staying committed to the new skatepark in spite of the challenges common to any skatepark project. There will be times when it looks like there is no path forward and you’re wasting your time. It may seem like there’s just too much to do and nobody else is helping. Or you might find that things you were counting on never came through. Unfortunately very few skateparks go according to plan. Every skatepark has obstacles in its history.
What are some warning signs that things may be going badly?
When skatepark projects fail, they usually do it quietly. The people behind them just give up and stop holding meetings or reaching out to new people. The clearest symptom that things with the skatepark aren’t going well is when nothing much is happening. If things seem quiet it’s usually because nothing is happening, and that’s how skateparks die.
The remedy is to stay busy with something while you’re waiting for other things to happen. You can always return to your public awareness campaign and present the skatepark to a new community group in the area. Skatepark progress is only happening when people are working on it.
How long should this whole thing take?
Skateparks generally take about three years to create due to the amount of public support, funds, and planning involved. Most of that time is spent fundraising. The amount of time to physically design and build the facility is only a few months. If you live in a small, remote town the project may take longer due to a lack of money for park improvements. If you live in a large, sprawling city the project may take longer due to a lack of an appropriate, community-approved location.
How do we respond when people want to support us?
When you are talking to someone about skateboarding or the skatepark, your first goal is usually to demystify the activity and highlight the benefits of the facility. Your goals shouldn’t end here, though. Being prepared to other outcomes is important. You should have in mind what the best-case outcome might be if the encounter is going to exceed your expectations. For example, if you’re talking to an educator about the skatepark, a best-case outcome would be that they encourage the local school board to endorse the skatepark project.
You never really know who might be in a position to donate a significant amount of money to the project. Most people won’t want to donate any money to the skatepark, but there may be other important ways they can show their support. You might ask them to write a letter to City Council, or sign a letter or support (or a petition). If they show interest in volunteering, knowing when and where you might be able to use them is useful.
If nothing else, most of your encounters with potential supporters should end with you getting their name, address, phone, and email.