Guest Column - November 2009
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10 Ways to Maximize Your Skatepark

By Aaron Spohn


katers will always find a place to skate. If your community doesn't have a skatepark, skaters will take to the streets where they share space with pedestrians and automobiles. Skateparks encourage youth to get off the couch and enjoy their recreational activity of choice.

Too many times, though, we've seen communities go through the motions to get a skatepark built, only to have it underused. This can be avoided by following a few simple guidelines during planning and design to ensure that a skatepark will fully serve its purpose.

Here are 10 simple ways to get the most out of your skatepark.

1. Listen to the Skaters
Your skaters are the end users of the facility, so ignoring their concerns leads to a skatepark that doesn't meet their needs and forces them back onto the streets. If you give them a chance to speak, these young advocates will clearly tell you the skate elements they want to see in their park. There are skateparks all over this country that are virtually deserted because they were designed with bowls and ramps, when the majority of skaters wanted street obstacles.

2. Make It Accessible
When choosing a site for your skatepark, strive for an area that is easy to find and not too far away from residential areas. To make sure skaters make the trip out to your skatepark, plan for a variety of transportation methods. Locating your skatepark near public transportation ensures that kids who don't have access to cars can still easily make it to the park. For those with cars, providing ample free parking is a great way to ensure skaters aren't deterred from visiting the park. Positioning the skatepark within a larger recreational area is ideal. A skatepark that is integrated with existing facilities will improve its aesthetics and make the skaters feel like they aren't being partitioned away from the rest of the recreational activities.

3. Make It Safe
Improving the safety of your skatepark goes hand-in-hand with making the skatepark as accessible as possible. Place the skatepark in a safe neighborhood, as opposed to an isolated corner of the community. If a safe neighborhood isn't an option, there are organizations such as the Action Park Alliance that provide skatepark management services to oversee park activities. Keeping your skatepark well-lit and visible from every direction discourages harmful and illicit activities. In addition to the park's location, the obstacles within the park are a key factor in safety. Poor design can create a traffic flow in the park that forces skaters to run into each other. Non-standard construction leads to gaps and cracks that can trip up the skaters. To avoid these pitfalls, proper execution of the design and construction of a skatepark requires the skills of a firm with deep roots in skateboarding.