Forest Grove, Oregon, is a community of nearly 20,000 people located 25 miles west of Portland. With just over a quarter of the population under 18, this small town has demonstrated incredible leadership by creating a successful neighborhood skatepark at a fraction of the cost. Furthermore, the inspiration responds to other skateparks in the area in terms of design and makes available terrain previously absent in the region. Now into its third year of operation, it seemed like a good time to see how this park has fared.
Skaters for Public Skateparks spoke with Forest Grove Parks & Recreation Director Tom Gamble about their skatepark.
Skaters for Public Skateparks: How were the funding and land obtained for this project?
Tom Gamble: Land was in the parks inventory, but undeveloped. Land was purchased long ago with a Federal Grant. The park was funded with Systems Development Charges that are collected with each dwelling unit built in the City.
How did you come about with this design?
Interested youth in the community where invited to 3 design workshops. Plus, they had direct input with Site Designs through their web-site as design development was underway.
A streetscape-heavy design offers less opportunity for construction flaws. What are some of the other advantages to a streetscape like this one?
The high water table played a part as we could not “dig” very deep. But the design is what the participants requested, as they understood other types of parks where available in out area.
How much maintenance has this park required? Is it worth the initial investment to go with concrete?
We do very little maintenance on the park features. We have not had to put any additional funds into the concrete since it was built.
Are the local skaters happy with this park? How has skating downtown been affected?
Skaters seem happy. They would like additional features, but funds at this point are not available. Downtown businesses are happy, as fewer skaters are using the curbs and sidewalks.
How successful has the siting been?
I get the occasional comment by neighbors. Mostly the skaters are out too late at night. But this only is once or twice per year.
Are there plans for more skateparks and/or expanding the current one?
We will look at another location when the parks master plan is revised. But no plans at this point to build another.
What is your policy regarding BMX usage in the skateparks? Have there been issues?
We allow BMX bikes, as we knew they would be on it. We discussed certain features that are good/better for BMX bikes. We have not heard of issues between the two groups.
What problems have come up since completion?
Just some drug dealers trying to set up shop.
Have the skaters developed a ‘sense of ownership’ ?
Ownership. I think they take pride in the facility. We have the usual litter problems, but we do not have any vandalism.
How well-used is this facility?
100 to 150 skaters/bikers per day. More on weekends.
Is there a sense that you have demonstrated to the youth of Forest Grove that you are interested in their wants and needs? That you are ‘in touch’ with them?
More than me as the director, I think the users appreciated the fact the Recreation Commission and City Council did the right thing and provided the skaters a facility after years of asking.
What would you do different next time? What advice would you give other communities?
Next time? I would build a different park with transition areas and street features together, if the budget is available.