Feature Article - February 2011
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Get In On the Action

Action Sports Parks Bigger, Better, More Balanced Than Ever

By Daniel P. Smith


Trend: Community Involvement and Partnerships

In most municipalities, few parks and recreation staffers stand in touch with skatepark or BMX park design, thereby—and wisely—spurring a process with significant public input.

"I don't have the first clue about the transitions and distance skaters need," Andrews' Hubert admitted.

In creating the Bemidji Skate Park, local leaders leaned on the Bemidji Skate and Bike Association's research and honest dialogue to incorporate the best street and transitional elements possible.

"Not knowing skatepark basics, the involvement of local parties helped us to understand what the skaters wanted and what we needed to provide to maximize the space's use," Larson said.

In designing skateparks, Nims and his Franklin's Paine cohorts consistently reach out to area skaters to gauge their interests and assess the proper scale.

"You have to design to the right scale for what's needed," Nims said. "Much like putting in a half-court basketball court versus a full-court layout creates a different type of game, scale can similarly impact skateparks and their use."

In Andrews, Texas, Hubert and his staff similarly turned to local BMX riders to create the city and county's first bike park project. The result: the 65-foot-by-100-foot Andrews BMX Park features an eight-foot and six-foot ramp, a spine, jumps and tabletops—a collection of elements to challenge veteran riders without scaring off novices.

"You need the input of the experts and users because if they're not using the park, then you've wasted taxpayer money. There must be a buy-in from the user group," Hubert said.

After opening the city's first skatepark in early 2010, Hubert and his Andrews colleagues soon noticed bikers eager to test their skills overran the park. With a need established, the group began drafting plans for a bike park in an adjacent space, immediately involving the bikers in the process.

"We frankly didn't realize there was such a presence, but moved quickly to create a space for both user groups," Hubert said.