Feature Article - February 2010
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Riding High

Getting Skateparks Done Right

By Stacy St. Clair

L.A. Plaza

The City of Los Angeles also made a strong statement in favor of sustainable parks when the parks department built a new concrete plaza at the Wilmington Recreation Center. They opted to reuse a concrete slab, minimizing the new park's carbon footprint. They also customized the slab and installed precast concrete skate elements, which meant they didn't have to tear up the concrete, perform extensive sitework or pour new concrete. The result is a virtually maintenance-free park that has exceeded the community's—and the staff's—expectations.

"We don't have to do a lot there anymore," said Mark Mariscal of the L.A. City Parks and Recreation department. "Of course, we still have to go in there and blow off dirt and power wash every three weeks, but it is much less than before."

The skate plaza receives high marks for its ability to blend in with the surrounding areas, as well. It looks like a natural part of the hardscape, Mariscal said, and mixes seamlessly with the rest of the park. And because of the plaza's open-air design, it can also be used for activities such as outdoor concerts and plays.

"It blends in wonderfully, which pleases the open-space advocates," he said. "(But) skaters still can get the feeling that they're doing something they shouldn't do. They still feel they have that roughness, that they're rogue and that goes along with that culture."

But don't take his word for it. Take the riders'. The plaza's use is about 300 percent higher than the original park. It also has become a popular place for high-profile, professional skateboarders such as Paul "P-Rod" Rodriguez, Jr., Lance Mountain, Geoff Rowley, Mark Appleyard and Leo Romero, among others, to shoot videos.

"Anywhere you pour concrete, people will use it for skateboarding," Mariscal said. "In the design phase we should be thinking that they are members of the community and we should partner with them rather than calling law enforcement to deal with them."