On Dec. 20th 2008, the City of Victoria opened a state of the art 15,000 square foot skatepark. The park features a large street area and a flow bowl, and is hailed as a destination skatepark in South Texas. Unfortunately, when the park opened it lacked common park amenities like restrooms, water fountains and shade structures. On top of that, the skatepark was poorly sited behind a large dirt berm which increased graffiti and other bad behavior. In 2009, the city erected a large fence around the park, but the bad behavior still continued. At this time, the Police Department opened an investigation into gang and drug activity at the skatepark.
Other problems arose when the city began to neglect the landscaping around the park. The grass had not been mowed for months and the it began to grow upwards of 2.5 – 3 ft. Plus the landscaping was not allowing the skatepark to drain properly creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes in the non-drainable areas. Although the conditions of the park were bad, it did not seem to phase the local skaters. Unfortunately, most of the skaters were young teens who were not familiar with advocacy or opening the lines of communication with the local government.
It took months of pestering the City Parks and Rec. Director, creating a Police endorsed skatepark community crime watch association, and meetings with the City Council members who would listen to reason, and by August 2010 I was able to get the City to start cleaning up the park. A spray paint removing solvent called Elephant Snot was used to remove the graffiti in the skatepark. Plus the Parks Commission told the Director to start a scheduled maintenance of the park more regularly, and to communicate with me on how to work on improving this asset in the City’s best interest.
Convincing the Parks Commission that the skatepark was one of the greatest assets to children and the community was not difficult. The skatepark brings in a good amount of tourism from neighboring cities like Corpus Christi, San Antonio and Houston. Plus it gives our youth a positive outlet and a safe alternative from the streets.
Keeping the positive vibe going, getting the lines of communication open, and staying upbeat and gracious when working with all aspects of the City was key in changing the skatepark for the better. They remedied the cosmetic problems of proper landscaping for a safe environment, adding port-a-potties, repairing all the blown out lights, adding drainage in the low areas of the edges of the street section, adding a water fountain and adding proper signage and police and non emergency contact information. The skaters were blown away, and started writing thank you notes and their own comments in the newly installed comment box at the park. Out of town visitors even say hello on comment cards and leave them in the box, further giving evidence to the City that the skatepark is a tourist destination.
In August 2011, they installed canopies at the skatepark, a year earlier than the city budget approved for us! Also we have been able to receive wonderful support and increased maintenance from the Parks Director, who once was under the impression that the skaters were not utilizing the park nor cared for it.
In June 2011, I was able to have the City and Mayor W. Armstrong proclaim every June 21st Go skateboarding day in Victoria, and we had a huge day full of free classes, food, contests and jams.
This skatepark is now a gem in the City’s Parks, and monthly draws skate tourists from around the U.S. If you have any questions on how to win back your skatepark from crime, vandals, and litter, then post your questions on on the forum.
Words and Photos by Teresa Waters.