Guest Column - January 2011
Find a printable version here

Skateparks

Skatepark Smarts
Using Programming to Promote a Positive Park

By Ben Wixon


Skateboarding classes, clinics and camps serve the community by teaching novice skaters skateboarding fundamentals and park etiquette safely and correctly. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the first week of learning to ride a skateboard is when skaters are at their highest risk for injury. Learning fundamental skills safely and correctly can help lower this risk of injury. In addition, lessons can help to temper an aggressive park climate by encouraging informal supervision through the presence of park staff facilitating the programs and classes. Although these staff members may not be formally supervising the skatepark (or even openly enforcing all of the park rules or recommendations), their modeling of appropriate behavior helps encourage more responsible behavior from younger skatepark patrons. The regular presence of park stewards will not only help to promote responsible behavior among skatepark patrons, they can also help report minor problems to park rangers and maintenance personnel before they become major issues.

A key ingredient in creating quality programs for your skatepark or community organization is in employing qualified staff and respected members of the local skate community. An excellent resource for recruiting experienced and responsible staff are local skateboarding retailers. Typically, the local skate shop serves as a central meeting place for skaters, and is almost always deeply connected to the local skateboarding scene. Skateboard retailers view local skateparks as good for business and are thus inherently invested in their overall success. Shops often encourage their part-time employees or team riders to help out as instructors and staff as they can help represent and promote the shop to the local community.

As every skatepark and community is unique, management approaches and strategies vary greatly, but the incorporation of quality park programming can provide positive results for most any skatepark. Just because a public skatepark may be free and unsupervised, that does not mean a happy medium between formal supervision and an out-of-control skatepark cannot be reached. Programming can take place in a variety of formats including lessons, camps, clubs and special events. Programs can be scheduled during less busy hours, or be designed to coincide with regular park usage. When planning skatepark programming it is crucial to employ experienced and responsible skaters. Also, instructors and park staff should always be trained in first aid and CPR before teaching classes. As with any instructional programs, it is always prudent to utilize a structured curriculum and conduct staff training. When planned for properly, quality programs conducted safely and correctly can help to ensure the success of a community skatepark for years into the future.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ben Wixon, M.Ed., is a recreation leader and programming consultant for Portland Parks and Recreation and also teaches middle school in the Portland Public School District. For more information and examples of skatepark programming, visit Skaters for Public Skateparks at www.skateparks.org; the Tony Hawk Foundation at www.tonyhawkfoundation.org; and Drop In to Skateboarding at www.dropintoskateboarding.com.