Every skatepark is the result of a successfully executed process, with phases that are remarkably consistent from one to the next. The SPS team represents skaters who for years have involved themselves in these projects, across the US, Canada, and Europe. If we’ve learned one thing in all our years of advocacy, it’s that eventually we encountered fewer and fewer surprises.
The way to understand the skatepark process is to consider it as a series of actions that you and your group must perform that will ultimately result in a new place to skate. These actions are essentially the same regardless of where you are or what your special circumstances might be. Significant deviations from this process are uncommon.
It’s also true that no two skateparks or the procedure undertaken to produce them are identical. What the material on the Skaters for Public Skateparks site does is deliver the structure that all skateparks share and ideas and techniques that may be relevant and interesting to you, or not. In other words, the process that you will follow to produce your new skatepark will the the same as everyone else but what you do within that structure will be uniquely yours.
Although this is changing rapidly, nearly all of the skateparks in the United States were produced by people who had never done it before. There are no “skatepark mercenaries” ready to hold your hand through every detail of your effort. You will need to fill in some gaps and occasionally be inventive. The process takes a lot of time, effort, and focus but the rewards are much greater than just the skatepark.
It’s valuable to envision the skatepark process as a sequence of events that starts, perhaps, with you talking with your friends about the need for a new skatepark. The process ends with you and your friends skating at the new skatepark. Successfully getting to the end of that process requires you to have a map that shows the route. Like all routes, any single point is interesting and useful but only helpful if you know what comes before it and what comes after. The skatepark process is no different; you need to understand the big picture to know where you are and what you’ll need to do next. Without a “skatepark process” to follow you will quickly become lost, frustrated, and no skatepark will materialize overnight or at any other time.
The skatepark process can be broken into five stages: Vision, Advocacy, Fundraising, Design/Construction, and Management.
The first step in the trek toward the new skatepark is to create a vision of what you hope to achieve. Your vision might be a small neighborhood skatepark, approval to develop a DIY spot, or a community-wide system of skateparks. There is no right and wrong vision.
Your vision should not be overly influenced by the practical or expedient considerations. If your vision is a 20,000 square foot skatepark smack dab in the middle of downtown but you “know” the City will want to put it in the far corner of a park near the outskirts of town, your vision is that the skatepark is downtown, period. There will be too many ways for the skatepark vision to become compromised later for you to start doing it to yourself before you’ve even begun. There ARE skateparks in the middle of downtown in cities across the nation. Those skateparks are the result of people who stuck to their vision.
Advocacy is the second stage because a vision without a voice to communicate it is just a dream. Advocacy is the act of promoting the vision and achieving a series of small successes that move you closer to the larger goal. Throughout the advocacy process you are providing those qualities that you like best about the skatepark vision to other people. Some of them will get it right away and others will struggle or even fight it. Throughout your advocacy stage you will develop a skillful way of communicating the vision so that it is easily understood by your audience.
You may have a terrific vision and have mastered advocacy but nothing will happen until money is produced. During the fundraising stage of the skatepark process, money is raised to pay for everything. It may fall upon you and your group to raise all of the money, some of it, or even none of it. Every community is unique and have different available resources. Generally the skatepark advocacy group will raise about a third of the total budget through grassroots fundraising and the Parks Department will furnish the larger amount through grants and other funds. Fundraising is often the most challenging and lengthy stage of the entire process.
Once sufficient funds have been raised, specialists will be hired to design and build the skatepark. This stage has its own unique considerations and requirements of the skatepark advocate. In order to protect your vision from unqualified vendors or design compromises you will learn about the ways public projects are awarded to companies and how those companies are reviewed and assessed to find the best value.
Finally, the park is built and open for business. At this point everything that happens here is considered management. This includes park policy, skateboarding classes, repairs, and other issues that might reveal themselves. While you may be busy skating, it’s important to remember that the success of the park reflects both on your and your management of the skatepark process but also on any future skatepark advocates who may step forward later for a new skatepark.
As a skatepark advocate it is important that you understand this process as a whole because any of the stages has an influence on the others. For example, a bold vision for a large skatepark with lots of features will change your approach to advocacy. How you advocate for the park will have an impact on the community’s acceptance of the idea and that will then influence where the park goes. Where the park goes will influence policy and maintenance. Everything is connected. The better you understand management issues…the last stage that seems so far away today…the more effective you will be in all the others, and that’s true for the process as a whole.
On this website you will find other groups that are beginning, midway, or finishing the skatepark process. You can also see the results of their hard work in the Skateparks sections. We welcome your questions about skatepark development and offer you our full support.