There are few skatepark stories as compelling as the one supplied by the people of Donald, Oregon. With a population of just over 600 people it seems like an unlikely place for a skatepark—world-class or otherwise. Yet the skatepark there has captured the imagination of skaters across the nation.
There’s nothing exactly spectacular about the Donald skatepark. It’s not large. In fact, it’s only 2,500 square feet. Two people can skate at the same time; one in the bowl and another in the flow section. What makes Donald’s skatepark so remarkable is that it exists at all.
There’s a belief among advocates that skateparks are easier in small towns. The layers of bureaucracy and fears are stripped away. In a small town the skatepark is for the kids that everyone knows. They see them every day in the parking lots and sidewalks around town. These aren’t hardened skate rats who destroy quality of life wherever they go. No, they’re just the ordinary kids who aren’t interested in playing team sports. They have their own thing and that’s fine.
It will come as no surprise that the skatepark sits in the middle of town. It’s such a small village that there’s nowhere else to put it.
The history of the skatepark reveals the great support that Donald residents have for their youth. A group of about 20 kids worked with the Mayor to lay a slab of asphalt on an empty lot. The kids then set to building ramps and boxes to skate on. Though the structures were not pretty to look at they got a lot of use. It was easy to see the passion and dedication in the local youth so the city decided to pony up for a small concrete skatepark.
Dreamland Skateparks, based in Portland some 20 miles away, was contacted. The company was new and there wasn’t a lot of awareness yet regarding what factors produced a world-class skatepark. The only thing known about Dreamland was that they were the people behind the renown Burnside skatepark. That was good enough.
Dreamland knew that whatever they produced in Donald would be used by people all over the area if it turned out right. They bid $35,000 on the design/build job; about $7 a square foot. While it is said that they took a loss on the project, their commitment to quality was apparent. They didn’t just produce a few concrete obstacles on a flat slab. They made a classic kidney bowl with an adjacent flow section. In 2001 bowls like this were rare and word of the creation quickly spread throughout the region.
What the Town of Donald understood—and something that eludes so many other agencies tasked with skatepark creation—is that the size of the skatepark or the forms within it do not equate to its quality or difficulty. Skaters of all ages and skill levels can enjoy the bowl at any pace they feel comfortable with. As their skills and confidence grows, the structure continues to offer challenges. Because of this, today the skaters of Donald demonstrate incredible skateboarding skills. The fact that professional skaters frequently visit the famous bowl while they’re visiting Portland may also have something to do with it. The local skaters are accustomed to high-caliber techniques at their local park.
We wish more communities had Donald’s wisdom and commitment to their youth.
Thanks to our friends at SkateOregon for the history!