Public skateparks all start the same way; community interest in a new place to skate grows until some people do something about it. The skatepark team considers the most viable path to a new skatepark. As one of their first acts, the new team introduces the skatepark idea to local government. The group works with the city to confront challenges, answer questions, and meet requirements along the way.
Coordinating with the city, the team solicits support for the new public park from lots of people and organizations. The advocacy team keeps the public and stakeholders informed, sets the project’s pace, and coordinates with the city to garner support from different people, groups, and institutions.
Every public skatepark in the United States is built with direct involvement and support from the local skateboarding community. Large or small, city or country, poor or wealthy, one thing is always true: volunteers get skateparks built.
It is encouraging to remember that thousands of successful public skateparks across the United States are open today, representing all kinds of communities and economic conditions. People that appreciate outdoor recreation everywhere see their skatepark as a reflection of their community’s commitment to physical and social health.
For people interested in starting a public skatepark project, there are two initial steps:
Step One: Form a Team
A skatepark advocacy group tends to start with a few people that wish there was a better or closer place to skate in their community. The team should publicize their meetings to invite others to lend their time and skills to the skatepark project. These team meetings are informal, compared to a city council meeting, and are usually held at someone’s home, public building, or local skate shop. The team should focus on understanding the development process and identifying areas that the group will probably be involved.
The earliest team meetings are likely to be spent talking about the following topics:
- What is the long-term goal?
- What are the short-term goals, and what can we be doing now?
- What people, organizations, and agencies should be informed about the skatepark project?
- What are some of the benefits of public skateparks?
- What are reasonable recommendations for size, costs, and location?
- What are some effective fundraising models and strategies?
- Who will commit to doing what before the next meeting?
The group composition and its activities will vary from project to project. Community characteristics, like size or economy, can have a major impact on the project’s viable strategies or activities. It may be easier to gain approvals for the skatepark in a small town than in a major city, for example, but then easier to raise funds in a city than in a small town. Advocates spend a lot of time considering what particular opportunities exist in their areas.
Skatepark groups that meet frequently – twice a month or more – and that are pursuing specific short-term goals tend to be more efficient than those that meet less often.
Step Two: Introduce the Project
After a few team meetings around the goal for a new local skatepark, the advocacy group will solicit interest and support from local government and, later, the general public, local businesses, and other area organizations. Starting with the city or parks department will provide valuable insight to your group’s strategy in obtaining necessary approvals and funds for the skatepark. Public city council or parks commission meeting times are available on the municipal website.
Introducing a skatepark concept to local government is, to some, a daunting task. The skatepark proposal is usually a short “speech” that lasts less than two minutes and describes a few of the key benefits that the new facility will bring. This will provide the starting point for many conversations that the team will be having with local government and others.
The team will seek more support from the city for site approval, funding assistance, hiring professional services, and navigating the development process. The team will also be stoking public interest for the skatepark by engaging the community in different, creative ways. Also, the team will seek technical and financial support from the general public, skate community, local businesses, and area organizations.
Experienced advocates recommend:
- Monthly (or more) skatepark meetings to inform and engage, promote the group’s goals, share recent achievements, and solicit support for upcoming events
- Establish short-term goals that help with the project’s skatepark mission
- Prepare to solicit support, guidance, and collaboration from local government
- Focus on expressing a positive, upbeat outlook; emphasize opportunities and activities that can be helpful today
- Expect to conduct a sustained and organized effort that may require several years to complete
If you are preparing a local skatepark project but haven’t taken any steps yet, we encourage you to do so. In our experience, the fastest way to get a skatepark in your community is to get out and engage with your community.
If you have questions about your particular skatepark project or would like to register your existing project, let the folks at The Skatepark Project know! Formerly the Tony Hawk Foundation, they’ve worked with skatepark advocacy projects for decades and are there to help. They’d love to hear about your public skatepark project and may have resources that can help you (including grant funding). The easiest way to do that is right here. This short questionnaire should take you about five minutes to complete.
If you’re looking for more information about skatepark advocacy and development, check out more of The Public Skatepark Development Guide.org.