Feature Article - February 2011
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Get In On the Action

Action Sports Parks Bigger, Better, More Balanced Than Ever

By Daniel P. Smith

Trend: Repurposing Unused or Languishing Spots

In Philadelphia, Franklin's Paine is helping to lead the city's renovation of various roller hockey rinks into skateparks.

In a project that captures the ethos of Franklin's Paine, a languishing, sparsely used 6,000-square-foot roller hockey rink has been reborn as Pop's Playground Skate Space. Using 2,000 volunteer hours and a local contractor, Pop's features an assortment of waist-high scaled skate elements, trees and plants, and a mix of various concretes, brick and granite edges.

"The average height of the ramps is about 30 inches, so the elements do not turn anyone away," Nims said. "Skaters respond to this type of opportunity."

On any given day, Pop's can host up to 400 skaters, a robust reality that has sparked other benefits. According to the Philadelphia Police Department, the immediate area has witnessed an 80 percent crime reduction. As skaters flow into Pop's, the area's newfound liveliness no longer serves as a shield for negative activity. The project's $30,000 price tag, meanwhile, has made the process replicable elsewhere and inspired myriad new ideas and possibilities in Philly and elsewhere.

"You're turning what might be a $400,000 project into something that might cost $40,000, which is a giant difference for public departments working on a budget," Nims said.

In Green River, Wyo., a scenic though unused piece of land overseeing the town's namesake river and adjacent to the citywide trail system, city leaders unveiled the Green River Bike Park on National Trail Day in June 2010. The Sweetwater County Biking Association donated up to 5,000 volunteer hours to transform the unused 3.5-acre parcel on the south end of a 17-acre park into a popular spot in the bike-happy community.

The Green River Bike Park, accomplished over 24 months for less than $100,000, features four different vertical routes—novice, beginning, advanced and experienced—and immediately began attracting visitors off Interstate 80.

"We'll continue to put the icing on the cake, which includes irrigation, landscaping and gathering community feedback so we can tweak it as necessary," Green River Parks and Recreation director Walt Bratton said.