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

This is another situation where hiring action-sports-experienced pros to help you will be a huge asset, as they can work with you (and the action sports crowd in your community—don't forget them!) to determine the best size and layout for your facility, as well as the number and types of elements you should include.

A final factor to consider as you're putting your venue in place is the rules you're going to post and how (or whether) you're going to enforce them. "Safety is a liability issue," Wixon said. "If you say helmets are required and someone gets hurt without one, the city can be sued," he pointed out. Wixon and the other pros consulted for this story do believe helmets are important, and when Wixon's working with beginners he suggests knee and elbow pads as well. However, he also noted the importance of learning to fall safely, the same way students are taught in sports like gymnastics or martial arts.

"We developed some rules for our Extreme Sports Park with help from the skaters and bicyclists who use it," said Jilayne Jordan, parks communications specialist with Clark County Public Information & Outreach in Washington state. These guidelines outline the type of atmosphere and culture the city and the action sports community would like to see at the facility, but Jordan added that the rules are not part of the city or county code, so they're just suggestions, not legally enforceable. Perhaps, then, the most important rule on the list is the second one: This park is unsupervised. Use at your own risk.

But don't let that make you nervous. A skatepark is a great thing for your community and your park district. Donelon said that in his experience, skateparks are used by the most diverse group of people of any facility in the park system. "There are very few issues in skateparks," he said. "They build a camaraderie among kids from all different backgrounds and make the park shine."