How do I get a skatepark in my town?
Effective and Empowered Advocacy.
The best skateparks are initiated by local skaters, and led by the users. Begin by understanding the process, become an skatepark advocate and ambassador of skateboarding, stay positive, and celebrate skateboarding. There a few websites that will help you start your education- our favorite is Skaters for Public Skateparks. They provide endless articles on advocacy, the process, downloadable powerpoint presentations you can use to convince the city, and awesome lists like 30 reasons your town should get a skatepark. They break up the process into five basic tenets. Click each stage to learn more.
If you are located in Indiana, the Indy Skatepark Advocates are a regional group well versed in advocacy, skatepark design, and construction. They offer great support, and have been known to travel to Indiana towns to attend city meetings to speak in support of local skatepark initiatives. Another great Indiana Advocate is Steve Anderson from Peru, Indiana. He knows the in’s and the out’s of skatepark community builds, and is a huge supporter of skateparks in Indiana.
Practice talking to people about the skatepark. Collect supporters and ask each to write a letter of advocacy or a testimonial. These will be helpful in gaining official support and also in fundraising.
It’s Time to Speak Up.
Now it’s time to take your ideas to the city, parks board, Mayor, and the community in-large. There is no single way to achieve the end goal, but from our experience if you can find a few city leaders to get behind the project that goes really far. We have even seen that a successful skatepark can cause a positive change in city government, maybe a shake up will happen! For example, Patty Boyles the new Parks Board President in New Castle, IN took decisive steps in order to move forward with a skatepark after witnessing skateboarders attempting to get a park for 20 years. Soon after she was installed on the board in 2016, they passed the skatepark project in the 5-year parks plan and wrote a grant to the Henry County Food and Beverage Commission to fund the plan. The city was awarded $275,000 and the park will be open in 2017. This is just one example of how one city board member can have a lot of influence- find your people!
It is very important that you document all of your actions via social media and community publications. The more positive articles that are published, the more real your project will become in the eyes of the community. That in turn will help garner support for fundraising efforts, and if you are experiencing resistance from city officials it will cause them to finally listen and support the cause.
Establish a Site and a Park Size.
A great site should be visible, accessible for the targeted users, close to community activity, and not pushed to the edge of town. The parks department of your town may want it to be in an underserved park which at times is a perfect match, but you must consider who the users will be and if they will be able to access it easily. Another important requirement is how the site can be drained. Parks can be built into the earth, built up, or use the cut and fill method using a little of both. If possible, choose a site with good drainage and with the ability to dig down or build up.
Park size should be established by how many users it could potentially serve. If it is the only park in the county, then it will serve a population bigger than just the city in which it is located. If BMX and bikes will be allowed, we suggest making the park at least 3,000 sq.ft. bigger to allow for the extra use. Bikes and skateboards can co-exist, but bikes are bigger and need to have the room to maneuver. Use Hunger Skateparks as a resource, we can help establish an ideal size and talk with you about the potential site.
Ideally the city should be willing to fully fund or partially fund the skatepark project- it is a free public recreation site and that is exactly what tax dollars should be used to support. But you will definetly need to start fundraising to help the cause. We would avoid using sites like GOFUNDME until you are more established because a low balance can reflect poorly on the skatepark ambition. The best way to raise money is to think of reducing the overall cost with in-kind donations and to write grants. Look for county Food and Beverage Grants, Tourism Grants, Parks Foundation Grants, or national grants like the Tony Hawk Foundation or Coca-Cola Grants. Grants want to see sustained community involvement so start collecting letters from business owners, leaders who support the skatepark, and document your outreach endeavors. In-kind donations are donations and discounts from local business. A chunk of the park budget will be for the materials, and those materials include concrete, rebar, steel, lumber, use of earth-moving machines, fill dirt, and gravel. We also have worked with skilled labor in the community like welders, concrete finishers, and carpenters to bring down the cost of labor. By establishing in-kind donations and skilled help, you can decrease the cost of the park significantly and get the entire community involved in the effort.
Design & Build.
We will work with your skateboarding community to develop the design and tailor to fit the build process. Each community is different, and the design and build process should reflect those differences and nuances.
It is of the upmost importance that the skatepark be designed and built by design/build skatepark professionals. Although concrete contractors may have an endless resume of concrete experience, they make very common mistakes when building skateparks that ruin the skateability of the park. A simple misplaced control joint or elevation mistake can turn well intended features into an unskateable park.
And Never Ever Pre-Fab, Modular, or Wood for Outdoor Public Skateparks!
Be prepared that as soon as you put up your social media site or website, the modular companies will start calling your city and parks officials. They are the pushy salesmen of the skatepark industry and have talked many cities into building uncreative, unsafe, and expensive skateparks without skateboarder input. They are really good at speaking with city officials whom have little experience with skateboarding, and they are really good at marketing their ‘Premier Skateparks’. These parks appear to be cheaper and they promise a life-time warranty, but they are built poorly so the warranty is on cheap materials, don’t last like they promise, and in the end will be torn down and seen as a failure. An informed skateboarding community chases out these companies before they can sink their hands into the process!