Your audiences, whether they’re city officials or the general public, will often be interested in how the new skatepark will impact local quality-of-life.
Where is the best location for our new skatepark?
In spite of the clear benefits there are aspects of skateboarding and skateparks that may be controversial in your community. Nothing can incite anti-skatepark sentiment as much as the proposed location. Because of this it is strategically useful to delay talking about where the skatepark should go as long as possible. Instead, your group should be using its time talking about the community benefits of the skatepark and building widespread support for the “idea” of a skatepark. Later, when the specific location for the skatepark is identified, there will likely be people in your community that support the idea of a skatepark but object to that specific location for some reason.
The skatepark location should be the result of a comprehensive site-selection evaluation. This process allows for several candidate sites to be compared using empirical measurements. The end result of this study is a “best location” for the skatepark based on specific, measurable factors. When an individual or group protests that location, you then have strong evidence that defends that site for the skatepark.
The opposite approach — one that we do not recommend — is picking a site because it seems like the best place to put it. It may be true that the site you’ve chosen for the skatepark is the best one but you lack the evidence needed to defend you decision from people that would prefer to see it elsewhere. Skatepark projects have been delayed for years due to site after site being rejected by various groups and individuals. You can prevent all of this by conducting a thorough study of all your site options and measuring those sites in specific ways.
Will the skatepark be loud?
Skatepark noise is a common community concern. Some people have formed their impression of skateboarding noise based on skaters rolling down the sidewalk. This is not a good comparison because skateparks are much smoother than sidewalks. More importantly, the sound coming from skateparks has been measured in several sound studies and has been proven to be well below common residential noise limits.
The best way to respond to community fears about noise is to invite those individuals to a concrete skatepark in the area. Even if the skatepark is packed with people, it will become immediately clear that the skatepark does not emit any more noise than other typical park activities.
Will the skatepark displace current park users?
Some people may reject the skatepark proposal because the space currently allows for other kinds of uses and these people will be displaced. The most common complaint is that the community needs “open green space” and the skatepark will diminish that space. The easy response to this by skatepark advocates is to recognize the need for green space but also that skateboarders currently don’t have ANY space to meet their needs. As a result they are finding their recreational opportunities in the streets, where they are at risk of serious injury, or in places where they are prohibited, where they are exposed to risk of legal action.
Is the skatepark incompatible with the green space currently at the location? Some people imagine skateparks as more pavement and less nature. They feel like taking away green space is a loss for the community. This is a reasonable conclusion for people that appreciate natural areas and don’t have any need for skateparks. It is important to recognize that the need for a skatepark is because skating in other places is inappropriate and may even be dangerous. There are youth in your city that would use your town’s public parks if only there were something there for them to do. The addition of a skatepark in the public park will invite those people to use the park.
Skatepark design has come a long way and now, more than ever before, skateparks can be blended into the landscape so that they don’t look like giant squares of concrete surrounded by cyclone fencing. Those “exercise yards” are still common, but smart communities are investing in better designs that don’t disrupt non-skaters’ enjoyment of the park.
Will the skatepark attract people from outside our community?
This question is difficult to answer and you may want to be careful. There are risks associated with any definitive answer, and since you can’t predict the future it may be worth avoiding the topic altogether.
Some advocates like to claim that the skatepark will be regionally famous and generate tourism dollars. This can produce some interest and support, but it can also produce some anxiety and opposition, too.
Some people may feel that the skatepark is only acceptable if it’s only visited by people from the immediate neighborhood. They won’t like the idea that new skatepark is going to attract people from across the region.
How do we respond if the immediate neighbors reject the idea?
Most of the people in your community that reject the idea of a new skatepark will be people that live near the proposed site. They would prefer that the park stays the way that it is. That’s what they’re comfortable with. You might feel like they are given a special claim on what goes on at the “public” skatepark just because they can afford to live across the street from it, and you might be right, but that doesn’t mean that their opinion suddenly doesn’t mean as much. Anyone that opposes the skatepark can severely delay the park’s progress if they feel passionately enough about it.
Your response to them should be sensitive to their needs and their comfort. It’s not just a matter of saying the right thing. You should try to really listen and understand what it might be like for them. They have made a serious investment in a home across the street from a park that they’ve come to love, and now you (and the city) wants to cover it with a skatepark.
There’s no easy way to reach these people. There’s a little chance that you will convert them into supporters and they have a lot to gain if you lose your temper. Avoid giving them more information that they can use against the skatepark. This means remaining polite and attentive even when people are saying untrue things about skateboarders and skateparks, or if they are insulting you and your group.