Feature Article - February 2010
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Riding High

Getting Skateparks Done Right

By Stacy St. Clair

Find a Spot

Officials in Vancouver, Wash., have installed skate spots throughout their community. These mini-facilities—first dubbed skate spots by the city of Seattle—are much smaller developments that may only consist of one or two features such as a ledge, a rail or a transition element.

The spots, also referred to as skate dots, cost significantly less than major venues because they require little maintenance and no additional infrastructure. They also can be easily integrated into the existing park space, allowing smaller neighborhood parks to have another amenity without becoming overwhelmed by concrete.

"By nature, skate spots have a smaller footprint, with less concrete, therefore less of an impact," said Jane Tesner Kleiner, Vancouver-Clark's Parks planning and development manager. "They typically only allow for 10 users or less at a time, therefore there is less foot traffic nearby with smaller amounts of trash, etc."

With the passage of the Greater Clark Park District program in 2005, there was an opportunity to build 35 new parks throughout the urban area. The parks staff worked with various public groups to identify gaps in the recreational system and decided skating and biking were in need of additional facilities. They then worked with a manufacturer of skate spots to identify features that would work in the new parks, including rails and ledges. Today, the community has two main skateparks, with six additional skate spots located throughout the urban area. BMX freestyle riders also can use the spots.

"These parks have been very popular with the users," Kleiner said. "There have been concerns with certain user groups related to vandalism, litter, profanity and such. We have worked with our local police and sheriff offices to partner on issues to be considered prior to installation of these features. Our biggest skatepark is located near a new fire station, while we have one skate spot collocated with a police station. We want these features to be successful so we have tried to identify neighboring uses that help monitor the areas and minimize issues related to skateparks and the perception that they may bring negative issues to the park."

Portland also has embraced the skate spot trend, with plans to develop 13 so-called spots across the city. They got creative with their placement, opting to redevelop unused wading pools into skate dots. They also sought outside funding for the spots because they're relatively low-cost and high-profile enough to make them attractive to sponsors.

"It's less impact financially on a city if they have skate spots, or little skateparks," Hanson said. "It takes only one good skate spot and all of the skateboarders know about it. Any city is full of skate spots. That's the beauty of them."