Feature Article - February 2009
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Grind Into Action

Getting Your Skatepark Rolling

By Sue Marquette Poremba

The Critical Role of a Public Design Process

The public design process has a unique role in skatepark planning and development. The design exercises and workshops moderated by an experienced skatepark designer will become your most significant catalyst for creating a sense of ownership and pride among the skatepark's most frequent visitors.

Few, if any, single park features can match the incredible and constant draw of a professionally designed and constructed skatepark. When that park offers a few unique structures or obstacles, or "signature elements," it can easily transcend a mere "place to skate" and become a virtual home away from home.

Popular skateparks are social and cultural landmarks for the area's teen and young adult set, and attendance measurements will show that these parks regularly exceed anticipated capacity. With this kind of pressure put on a facility, it's easy to see how a few ad hoc park stewards can tip the balance from "nuisance and eyesore" to "pride of the community."

These stewards aren't likely to contact Department Headquarters to get involved in the legitimate volunteer steward program. Traditional outreach and recruitment schemes aren't likely to draw them in. Instead they are likely to act on their own accord. Skateboarding is essentially an individual activity that often attracts the kinds of people who aren't interested in team sports. As a result, your steward may pick up or regulate behavior because they understand that the park is meaningful to them. Provided you had a great design process, they helped design it. It reflects their involvement both figuratively and literally. These are your best-case skaters: involved, passionate and committed.

You can attract these individuals by holding public design workshops hosted by a professional designer who also skates (and can understand the nuanced dialogue of skateboarding terrain), and has experience meeting these needs in the built environment. Design workshops mediated by non-skaters or inexperienced designers often yield an undesired effect of turning the key users away from the process and, ultimately, away from

ownership. When public design processes go well, the community is on the right track to having a skatepark that everyone can be proud of.

—Peter Whitley, Skaters for Public Skateparks, www.skatepark.org