Skateparks

10 Ways to Maximize Your Skatepark

By Aaron Spohn

S

katers will always find a place to skate. If your community doesn't have a skatepark, skaters will take to the streets where they share space with pedestrians and automobiles. Skateparks encourage youth to get off the couch and enjoy their recreational activity of choice.

Too many times, though, we've seen communities go through the motions to get a skatepark built, only to have it underused. This can be avoided by following a few simple guidelines during planning and design to ensure that a skatepark will fully serve its purpose.

Here are 10 simple ways to get the most out of your skatepark.

1. Listen to the Skaters
Your skaters are the end users of the facility, so ignoring their concerns leads to a skatepark that doesn't meet their needs and forces them back onto the streets. If you give them a chance to speak, these young advocates will clearly tell you the skate elements they want to see in their park. There are skateparks all over this country that are virtually deserted because they were designed with bowls and ramps, when the majority of skaters wanted street obstacles.

2. Make It Accessible
When choosing a site for your skatepark, strive for an area that is easy to find and not too far away from residential areas. To make sure skaters make the trip out to your skatepark, plan for a variety of transportation methods. Locating your skatepark near public transportation ensures that kids who don't have access to cars can still easily make it to the park. For those with cars, providing ample free parking is a great way to ensure skaters aren't deterred from visiting the park. Positioning the skatepark within a larger recreational area is ideal. A skatepark that is integrated with existing facilities will improve its aesthetics and make the skaters feel like they aren't being partitioned away from the rest of the recreational activities.

3. Make It Safe
Improving the safety of your skatepark goes hand-in-hand with making the skatepark as accessible as possible. Place the skatepark in a safe neighborhood, as opposed to an isolated corner of the community. If a safe neighborhood isn't an option, there are organizations such as the Action Park Alliance that provide skatepark management services to oversee park activities. Keeping your skatepark well-lit and visible from every direction discourages harmful and illicit activities. In addition to the park's location, the obstacles within the park are a key factor in safety. Poor design can create a traffic flow in the park that forces skaters to run into each other. Non-standard construction leads to gaps and cracks that can trip up the skaters. To avoid these pitfalls, proper execution of the design and construction of a skatepark requires the skills of a firm with deep roots in skateboarding.

4. Provide Site Amenities
Skaters don't expect lavish facilities, but failing to equip your skatepark with the basic site amenities increases maintenance costs. Outfitting the skatepark with restrooms and trash cans will naturally maintain the cleanliness of your skatepark. A water fountain hydrates users while reducing the waste caused by empty water and soda bottles. Equipping the park with lights propels your skatepark to the next level, by giving access to older skaters who may work during typical park hours. These older skaters have a stabilizing effect on the park, discouraging juvenile vandalism and misbehavior.

5. Perform Maintenance
Performing regular maintenance helps avoid long-term issues that will require completely redoing the park. Periodically removing debris and inspecting damage before it becomes a bigger problem has a solid return on investment. If maintenance is overlooked, small problems such as a broken piece of coping often lead to serious safety issues. Many parks provide on-site brooms and squeegees to let skaters clean the park themselves.

6. Make Space for Spectators
Skateboarding is a highly athletic and acrobatic activity that is fun to watch. Failing to include space for spectators though, isolates skateparks and discourages non-skaters from visiting the park. In addition, parents feel more comfortable taking their kids to the skatepark when there is room for them to sit and passively supervise. This space is also essential for anyone taking a break from skating, so they are not forced to rest in areas of oncoming traffic.

7. Create a Diversity of Obstacles and Terrain
Skateparks are always a huge hit with the skaters within the first few months of the grand opening, but what happens after that? Many times the skaters become bored with their skatepark and they return to the streets to find new opportunities. Designing a skatepark with a diversity of obstacles and terrain will ensure that skaters can find an infinite number of different lines throughout the park, without the skating becoming mundane. The skatepark should also be designed for a wide range of skill levels. This guarantees that novices won't be discouraged because the course is too difficult while the advanced skaters will be continuously challenged.

8. Leave Areas of Open Space
Some skatepark designers are under the impression that the more obstacles you can cram into a skatepark the better. Although skaters require a certain density of obstacles, there are established minimum distances that any professional designer will establish. Skateparks are supposed to resemble the streets where skaters can flow through open space and push around from one obstacle to another. Skateparks with little room for pushing and space free from obstacles create a scenario where skaters are constantly running into an obstacle before they have collected themselves from landing a trick on a previous obstacle. Open space is also good for beginners who want learn the basics before tackling their first real skatepark obstacle.

9. Host Events
In order to tap into the full potential of your skatepark, hosting events is crucial. Events at your skatepark are a great way to draw a crowd and keep that crowd coming back on a regular basis. There are a number of programming options that can be held at your skatepark that require minimal effort. Popular events include contests, demonstrations by local or national skate teams, skate lessons and planned skateboarding sessions such as "Go Skateboarding Day." All of these activities can be easily organized with assistance from a local skateshop or skateboarding club. These events are vital because they remind skaters that there is a park in your community and can also expose new skaters to the presence of your skatepark

10. Promote Your Skatepark
To make sure your skatepark is getting its fair share of use, you have to spread the word. There are several ways to promote your skatepark that are free and extremely easy. First, gather information on your skatepark and take some photos. Post this information on the many online skatepark directories like SkateBoardPark.com. Secondly, you can easily create an online presence with a blog, MySpace or Facebook page. This will ensure maximum attendance at your skatepark, especially for the major events.

After taking the time, effort and funds to build a skatepark in your community, make sure it is getting the utmost use. With proper planning and consultation from respected skatepark construction and design firms, the complexity of a skatepark project can be handled much easier. Following these simple guidelines will reduce the likelihood of issues arising in the short term, leaving your community with a source of pride for years to come.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aaron Spohn is the founder and president of Spohn Ranch Skateparks. Spohn Ranch is a leading skatepark construction and design firm based in Industry, Calif., that has built more than 450 skateparks around the world for communities with a wide range of needs and circumstances. For more information, visit www.spohnranch.com.




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