Designing for Policy

Skatepark design is much more than deciding what the space looks like and where the elements will be placed. Skatepark designers must also consider how many people will be sharing the space, where will they stand when they’re not actually skating, where they will put their backpacks and beverages, and where they will go to sit and relax when they’re tired.

The most successful skateparks are designed in a way that encourages policy compliance. For example, if BMX will be allowed at the facility, the design should be sensitive to the fact that BMX riders go much faster than skateboarders and can traverse spans between areas of the facility that skateboarders cannot (and therefore may not be prepared for traffic coming from that direction).

There are lots of M&O concerns and skatepark policies that will influence the skatepark design. When these policy decisions are addressed only after the design is finalized, (or worse, only after the park is open), it can present a lot of problems.

Most M&O considerations should be discussed before the skatepark design is finalized.

The M&O and policy concerns that should be addressed before the skatepark design is final are:

  • BMX
    BMX riders go faster and use the park differently than skateboarders and scooters. Design should accommodate these differences to prevent collisions.
  • Supervision
    On-site supervision will require a secure space for volunteers and/or employees, signage, first-aid kid, and so on.
  • Fees and/or Waivers
    Skatepark access will require managed access points to prevent unregistered users from using the facility.
  • Site Security (fences and gates)
    Fences will require wider decks and park perimeter to allow for safe “shoulders” to avoid collisions.
  • Material (particularly wood and steel)
    Specialty tools and training will be required to inspect, maintain, and repair the skate furnishings.
  • Crowding and Capacity
    Skateparks serving as contest venues will require additional space for vendor and administration booths, and onlookers.
  • Low Activity
    Parks in small, remote communities can benefit from designs that are integrated so that the whole space can be used together, rather than broken up into “rooms” for higher capacity.
  • Adjacent Landscaping
    Plants and ground cover that can spill into the skating area can introduce dangerous hazards.
  • Noise
    Skateparks sited near residences should be designed in a way that is sensitive to how much noise is generated and where it is reflected.
  • Lights (evening usage)
    Evening use will tend to attract an older crowd with different needs and interests than those using the park before 5 PM.

The M&O and policy concerns that can be negotiated at any point in the development process are:

  • Graffiti
    Graffiti will typically appear within the first month of a skatepark’s opening. If it is removed immediately and consistently, its frequency will taper. The only design characteristic that may factor in graffiti is parks featuring lots of spots blind to passing evening traffic.
  • Helmets and Pads
    Helmet compliance is a byproduct of clear and consistent communication, not of skatepark design. (However, some types of designs tend to warrant higher levels of helmet use than others.)
  • Trash Removal
    Several factors will affect trash management, but trash management should be flexible and modified during the first season or two to achieve maximum effect. Trash management is generally conducted around the perimeter of the skating area and should not impact design.
  • General park clean-up
    Aside from special maintenance concerns, like mowing green “islands,” general clean-up should have little impact on the park design.
  • Skate Classes
    Skate classes can be conducted during slow times, like weekend mornings, in the active skate spaces.
  • Volunteer Stewardship
    Volunteer activity is more likely to occur at a park the skateboarding community is proud of. Beyond this, the design will not be a major factor in encouraging volunteerism.
  • Unwanted or Criminal Behavior
    General CPTED principles apply, as do issues of community pride in the facility, but the design of the skating terrain should not have much impact on criminal behavior.
  • Skatepark Closures
    Aside from a perimeter fence, skateparks that are closed for maintenance or during evening hours should not be reflected within the terrain itself.