Feature Article - February 2009
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Grind Into Action

Getting Your Skatepark Rolling

By Sue Marquette Poremba

Get Rolling

"Why does a city need a skatepark? If you don't have one, the entire city becomes the skatepark," said Roger Harrell, a representative from Premise Immersive Marketing and former publisher of Skateboarder Magazine. With no other place to practice and hone their skills, skateboarders use—and sometimes destroy—public areas like park benches, stair railings and sidewalks. Harrell also points out that the majority of serious injuries and deaths due to accidents in skateboarding happen on city streets, usually involving cars.

"Skateparks provide protection," Harrell added.

Oftentimes it is the skateboarders themselves, along with their parents, who present the idea to their local city council that a skatepark is needed. But it's a slow process, one that can take a decade or more to bring to fruition. Dial said it took between four and five years before the skatepark in Shelbyville was approved.

"It took a lot of convincing," he said. "There was a misconception of what a skatepark was. And skateboarding today isn't the same as it was when we were kids." In addition, there were preconceived stereotypes of the skateboarders themselves that had to be overcome.

However, once the approval comes, skateboarders are often active participants in the entire process. They help with the design. They help with fundraising. And when the park is open, they come in droves. Even in the winter months, when snow and inclement weather keep the basketball and tennis players away, the skateboarders will come to the skatepark, shovels in hand, and continue skating.

"Once you've identified the need for a skatepark, you want to form a committee that includes local input of skateboarders from the community," Harrell said. "But the kids don't always know what they need, so you'll want to bring a park builder into the conversation. The kids will have good ideas, but they might also have some crazy ideas. Having a designer or builder on hand provides someone who can translate the desires of the kids into something that will become a reasonable park."

Communities may also want to consider breaking the initial committee into subgroups, added John McConkey, products manager of a manufacturer of modular skatepark systems. "Subgroups can be dedicated to issues like site selection, design, fund-raising, public relations. If there are a lot of people involved with the initial push to get the park started, this is a good strategy to have a number of young people working with city officials. The kids get to learn how the government process works."