Marginal Way DIY Skatepark

Marginal Way Skatepark was founded in 2004 as a response to the City of Seattle’s neglect to build more skateparks. At that time there were two small parks in town and many more needed. Rather than spend their time and money on building more skateparks they decided that both existing parks needed to be torn down and relocated. We were looking at a lengthy period of no skateparks in town and even after the replacements were built we would be back where we started. This led us to get busy and find a place of our own.

We found a spot under an overpass in the industrial part of town. There was nothing legal or clean about the place. Prostitution, drug use, and homeless camps were just some of the things we had to battle to stake our claim. We began with a small concrete wallride and followed with a similar sized quarterpipe a couple months later.

This was as far as we made it while flying under the radar of the authorities. Once the city started sniffing around we had to start working within the channels of city bureaucracy. Facing a threat of our spot being torn down, it was far from a skatepark at this time, we first mounted a media blitz. The Stranger, a local weekly paper, did a great article about what we were doing and this was followed up with a sympathetic TV news story. At the same time we were able to meet with city officials and work out the liability issue regarding the park. This was enough for them to grant us permission to keep building and it was game on!!!

Our new status got people excited to get things built and skaters came out of the woodwork to help. Our friends at Grindline helped us step up from mixing bags of concrete in a broken wheelbarrow to bringing it in by the truckload. We poured a real concrete flat section over the pitted asphalt and threw in some mellow banks on one side. Next up we poured trannies all around this, a way bigger wallride section with a steep wall and a smaller less steep wall. It was kind of like a mini-bowl from hell. This was the first section of the park and it was fun, sketchy but fun.

It was also around this time that we realized that we weren’t going to be able to keep paying for this out of our own pockets. Supporters of the park stepped up in many ways to throw fundraisers. We started out selling t-shirts then moved to putting on punk shows. This was enough to sustain us for a while and it was a lot of fun too. Since then we’ve done more punk shows, art shows, raffles and whatever else we can think of. Our BBQ’s and shows at the park have been huge successes for us, most notably the finale of Thrasher’s Skate Rock west coast tour. Great skating, good bands and good money raised.

Since those early days we’ve become a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. This has enabled us to take donations from individuals and companies, and allow them to write it off. Planet Earth Clothing stepped up and paid for a whole section to be poured and made a nice accompanying documentary to go with it. More recently Spitfire Wheels has released the Marginal Way DIY wheel with proceeds going to the park.

Since the early days of the original shallow section we’ve gotten bigger and better. Every pour is better than the last and we’ve got a whole other deep and shallow end along with the original section that we did about five years ago now. There’s still more space to fill and we’ll see what the future holds for us as soon as there’s money to do it.

Marginal Way is an example of how anyone can build a skatepark. All you have to do is build one thing at a time and eventually you will have something bigger than you could have originally imagined. Here we are six years deep and no sign of letting up. In those six years I’ve never regretted what we have done. Since then the city has realized the need to build more parks, but they seem to go out of their way to water down or screw up every step of the process. They either hire designers that don’t skate or hire unqualified builders.They have yet to get the total package right. Marginal Way will always be built by skaters for skaters. That is something the city has proven they will never be able to accomplish.

Words, Photos: Dan Barnett

Marginal Way Gallery