Feature Article - February 2012
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Bring On the Action!

Easy Steps to Introduce Action Sports to Your Community

By Jessica Royer Ocken

Gauge Interest

If you're considering action sports for your community, it's likely there's already a contingent of interested parties who've made their presence known. This is exactly what you want. Talk to them. Get them involved from the very beginning of your process. And if you're not sure how to find them, check with bike shops and skateboard shops in the area. Let these people know you're considering a skatepark project and they'll probably show up en masse at your next meeting.

Mike Donelon of the Action Sports Kids (ASK) Foundation, an organization that promotes skateparks as an alternative to the streets and gangs, said local kids have been involved in the design of every one of their eight Long Beach, California-area skateparks. "It's critical to success because it gives [the kids] ownership," he said. But it can also get their hopes up, so he encourages communities to be sure they have a location and money available for the project before the design phase begins.

Ellen Masciocchi, retired project manager with the Montgomery County Department of Parks, Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, oversaw several skatepark projects during her career. She also encourages close collaboration with local users throughout the process. "You want to create facilities that appeal to users and keep them off the streets," she said.

Another way to get a sense of who might show up to use your action sports venue, once you build it, is to offer a few beginning classes or instructional workshops in a gym or on a tennis court, suggested Ben Wixon, director of development-programming and instruction with Skaters for Public Skateparks. This not only generates excitement among those already interested in action sports, it might also expand awareness and grow the group waiting to get involved.

Scott Rothschild, director of professional development for the American Camp Association for New York and New Jersey, has also worked for several years now with a group of kids in Marlboro, N.J., who want to bring a skatepark to their town. It's been a long, slow struggle, but one of the things they've done along the way is offer an intro-to-skateboarding lesson to the younger kids in town (ages 5 to 10). Part of the class was on a hockey rink that wasn't being used, and they also demonstrated a few moves out on a grassy hill. "The kids brought their own equipment, and we just did the basics," Rothschild recalled, "safety, how to turn, how to do an ollie [a basic skateboarding trick that involves popping the board into the air], and a 360."

He also suggests that offering action sports as a component of local summer camp programming is a good way to introduce the concept to your community.