(A Skater, Parent, Teacher, Local Resident)
Nearly all public skatepark projects start with a local resident who takes it upon themselves to work toward creating more skate space in town. This usually results in them creating and managing a public skatepark project. Almost always a self-elected volunteer position, many “skatepark advocates” start with little knowledge or experience of public projects. They learn along the way, often using resources and guidance available through The Skatepark Project and advice they get from their allies in the local government.
The Skatepark Project’s focus is to help individuals like yourself follow best practices for establishing and completing a successful skatepark project.
Check out the information on this page to learn how it works and utilize the resources below to get started.
You can get free guidance and technical assistance from our staff. If you have questions, need help with an existing project or have decided to start a new skatepark project, you can connect with us by using the contact links at the bottom of the page.
Every public skatepark is the result of dedicated civil servants engaging with locals and understanding the need of the community.
Often this means taking steps to make the project a priority and putting resources behind it. Some start the project themselves, some learn about the need and choose to act. Wherever someone starts, the Skatepark Project is here to assist municipal employees in their efforts to generate, complete or support local public skatepark projects.
Our Programs Department is ready to offer free, unbiased skatepark project development guidance, technical assistance, and grant funding. We’ve been involved with thousands of projects over the last 20 years and intend to help you complete a public skatepark project efficiently and up to contemporary standards.
Take a look at some of the top line information for successful skatepark projects on this page (particularly the Core Principles and Priorities section – or the Skatepark Best Practices Guide for a deeper dive) then email us to set up an initial consultation or a Project Review Appointment with our staff.
The best practices of a contemporary public skatepark project include the following attributes
While working on a skatepark project, the single most important thing you can do is help the city understand the importance of quality construction. Not hiring experienced skatepark construction firms is the quickest and easiest way to waste all the funding for the skatepark. Imagine trying to play basketball on a lumpy court with bent rims placed at the wrong heights. It just doesn’t work.
Getting involved in the process and helping your city understand the need for speciality construction requirements are critical steps in skatepark project success. If you take away one thing from these materials, it would be the importance of convincing your city to do an RFQ (Request For Qualifications) prior to the construction bid to ensure only experienced skatepark construction specialists can apply.
If you’re serious about your skatepark project, take five minutes to learn about ensuring quality in design and construction.
From the Public Skatepark Development Guide:
The major challenge for skatepark advocates is to produce the best skatepark possible with your available resources and constraints.
Skatepark quality is a difficult thing to describe. Non-skaters frequently underestimate how particular skaters are about the quality of their terrain. Most people imagine skaters riding their boards on all kinds of things that weren’t designed to be skated on and conclude that skaters are going to be happy with just about anything. Skaters, on the other hand, know that the line between a perfect ledge and one that sucks is pretty thin.
A risk that all skatepark advocates are aware of is that an unqualified skatepark builder will produce a skatepark that is unusable. All of the years of advocacy and fundraising are wasted when an unqualified skatepark builder is hired. Hundreds of skateparks across the nation do not perform as well as they might due to flaws in the design or construction that are, by most accounts, easily avoided by experienced builders.
Common mistakes by inexperienced skatepark builders:
Bulges and slumps
Subtle undulations in the skating surface act as “tripping hazards” for skateboarders. Variances that are nearly invisible to the eye affect the moving skateboard as abrupt speed changes and can easily throw the rider off the board. Bulges and slumps are a problem wherever they occur; on flat ground or on banks and transition terrain.
Coping is the raised lip at the top of curving walls. It provides the skater with tactile feedback and tells him or her where the edge of the surface ends. A lot of tricks are based on the skateboard’s interaction with the coping. When the coping is set incorrectly—either too much coping is revealed or not enough—it changes the character and usability of the structure that it’s connected to. An experienced skatepark vendor knows instinctively how much coping reveal is appropriate for each area of the park.
Inexperienced builders and designers may fail to appreciate the precise tolerances desired where two pieces or planes come together. Even the top and bottom of banks have a slight amount of curved transition that can dramatically improve the usability of that structure. The placement of expansion seams is another place where inexperienced designers are frequently insensitive.
Ignorant Park Layout
The design and construction of the structures is as important as how those structures orient to each other. Inexperienced skatepark vendors frequently fail to position elements in a way that provides maximum usability and enjoyment from the structures. The quality of a park’s layout and design is difficult to measure but you can get a sense of a company’s design quality by looking at how proud they are of their parks. Experienced skateboarders will hold particular companies in high esteem for a good reason; these are the companies that have crafted reputations based on decades of experience. A inexperienced designer can easily create a skate space that results in a higher frequency of collisions and accidents.
Most of these poor decisions are not the result of intentional deceit but rather from inexperience and over-confidence. Everyone has a genuine desire to provide the best skatepark possible. It’s important that advocates understand that preventing unqualified companies from being involved in the skatepark is not an issue over skateboarders’ desire to work with a particular skatepark company but rather from a desire to rely on a company that consistently produces excellent results.
If a company is eager to excuse or apologize for their past work, (“We don’t do things that way anymore”), it’s a good sign that they are willing to have your community project be the thing that they apologize for in the future. You should aim for companies that are proud of all of their projects.
Allowing inexperienced skatepark vendors from designing or building the skatepark is a source of anxiety for most skatepark advocates. As the skatepark project moves into the public bidding process, as an advocate you may sense that your ability to prevent bad companies from getting involved is slipping away.
Understanding the vendor-hiring process is the first step in ensuring that your new park is designed and built by only qualified companies.
Methods for Ensuring Quality Vendors
There is no guarantee that the skatepark you’ve worked so hard for will turn out as good as or better than you expected. There are lots of things you can do as an advocate or an administrator that will improve the odds of an excellent skatepark. It’s important to understand that you cannot guarantee a flawless skatepark; you can only improve your chances that it will turn out better than expected.
1. Lead the Discussion
You cannot influence the project if you are not involved. You will need to know explicitly what the exact process is for procuring a design and, later, hiring a construction firm. These processes vary from state to state and from community to community. The size of your local government can be a factor in how complicated this process is, and there are also state and local laws to be aware of.
The best way to understand what process you will be using is to ask. This is the perfect kind of conversation for your steering committee. It’s appropriate to ask city staff what opportunities you, the skateboarders, will have to ensure that an acceptable designer and builder are involved.
Some skatepark projects are led by their city administrators and the skateboarding community is only involved for occasional public meetings and events. When the skating community does not have representation with personal experience visiting and using different skateparks, it can be difficult to fully appreciate the importance of the considerations around “quality.”
A better arrangement is a peer relationship with the City where the advocates help lead the way. The responsibility of achieving this kind of partnership lies with the advocates. As an advocate, you must continue to increase your knowledge of skatepark development, grow your lexicon around skatepark use, and have a critical eye to skatepark design.
When an advocacy group researches skatepark development and are able to approach their city leaders with a schedule, cost estimates, and strategy for gathering community support, the city leaders should respond positively.
Conversely, when an advocacy group approaches the city with a list of desires and needs, and no plan for achieving those things, the city leaders see the skatepark project as a burden.
Try to project the following qualities:
• Your group understands skateparks
• Your group needs guidance navigating local processes
• Your group is willing to do as much as possible with enthusiasm
2. Warn of Approaching Obstacles
No skatepark was intentionally created to fail, yet skateparks fail from time to time. They fail when advocates and planners fail to recognize critical developmental decisions. Skateparks fail when expediency is put in front of quality. Skateparks fail when community fears are more important than the needs of local youth. Skateparks fail when skateboarder’s voices are not heard.
Recognizing and anticipating the risks in skatepark development provides an enormous value. Most advocates soon realize that city administrators do not have the time to investigate the pitfalls in skatepark development and, as a result, may blindly walk into them. The advocate can help by warning of approaching risks to the park’s quality and prioritize the local skateboarding community’s interests accordingly.
Some common risks include (in order of frequency):
• Enlisting a skatepark designer to “donate” services
• Tasking critical developmental decisions to individuals that are not sensitive to the importance of quality standards.
• Making critical development decisions based on unsubstantiated community fears
• Prioritizing size over quality
• Proposing specific locations prematurely
• Failing to establish positive relationships with other community organizations
• Neglecting to create and implement a comprehensive fundraising strategy
3. Be Engaged in Selection Process
At some point in the process, skatepark advocates and city administrators must have a conversation that establishes methods for ensuring that only qualified designers and builders are hired for the project. That conversation may even occur several times. It will come up a lot.
There are several ways to reduce the risk of unqualified skatepark vendors from bidding on your project. Advocates will need to work directly with their city administrators — particularly liaisons in the planning department — to ensure that all priorities are agreed upon and aligned.
There are a few places where specific criteria can limit the number of companies from getting involved with the project. The process for hiring a design is generally less regulated than the process for hiring the builder. An experienced builder can sometimes improve on a flawed design, but an experienced designer cannot fix poor construction. It’s important that both the designer and builder are both qualified, but mediocre construction is much worse than mediocre design on the facility’s long-term success.
4. Do Not Compromise Quality for Speed or Cost
Commit to a standard of quality as your first priority. It’s better to have a good skatepark that is small than a large one that sucks. Similarly, it’s better to continue to work on the skatepark for another year if it means that you get the skatepark that your community needs rather than settling for a lesser skatepark that can be built sooner.
Request for Qualifications
There are several technical methods for restricting unqualified bidders. One way is to establish a requirement for certain qualifications from all bidders. This is the best way to prevent unqualified companies from bidding on your project while still allowing qualified companies to be competitive.
The qualifications that determine who is eligible to apply are generated by the city’s planning department in accordance to the project’s process and local laws. The city is creating a “request for qualifications (RFQ)” from companies that might be interested later in bidding on the project. Before those companies can bid, the city (and its local skateboarders) need to see if they’re interested in even talking to a particular company about their new skatepark. The RFQ is prepared and generally asks the company to answer a few questions.
Those qualifications usually include:
These two items allow the review board to assess the company proposals based NOT just on the proposed price but also on qualities that are critical to skateboarders’ interests.
Experienced skatepark companies usually respond to RFQs with a printed portfolio of their work, a cover letter, and documents to answer specific questions required by the RFP that their brochures may not cover. In other words, skatepark companies respond to RFQs all the time and they may not give them very much individual attention, particularly if the project is smaller, (e.g., less than $350,000 or so).
Your city may be prepared to hire a design from the batch of RFQ respondents without further investigation. The designer is often hired by the city based solely on the brochures and supplementary documents. If the project is larger, they may conduct personal interviews with the firms. In these interviews, the designers will talk about their approach to design, samples (photos) of their work, and often some quick concepts of the project as a means of demonstrating their enthusiasm and initiative. (These early concepts are seldom informed by any interactions with the local skateboarding community; they are simply visual examples to get the attention of the hiring committee.)
There will likely be other methods that provide greater control over whom is hired to design and build your skatepark. Finding those opportunities is the result of open communication with your city leaders about the risks inherent in skatepark development.
All three of these strategies for ensuring quality work require that the skatepark advocates are a trusted, respected presence at all discussions pertaining to the skatepark. For advocates, this should be one of the central goals of their engagement with the city. Almost all problems that emerge in skatepark development are ultimately the result of the skateboarding community not being involved in the decision-making process.
Skateparks are a valuable community resource that provide the local and visiting action sports community with a safe place to ride. If you’re already familiar with the value of skateparks, feel free to skip down to the advocacy path and resources – but be sure to revisit these points if you decide to begin a project in your neighborhood.
Skateboarders, BMX Riders, Roller Skaters, Inline Skaters, Wheel Chair MotoCross (WCMX) riders, Adaptive Skaters and Scooter riders need a designated safe place for habitual recreation and community engagement.
Skateparks can be seen as a playground, a gym, a creative laboratory, a community center and much more.
We believe skatepark users encounter a physical and social environment that improves mental health, fosters community, and encourages diversity and resilience.
Skatepark users also engage in
Creative self expression
Diverse community engagement
Long term habitual exercise habits (without the restrictions of league costs, coaches or practice schedules)
Perseverance through repetition and self-set goal achievement
For more information or studies about the impact and value of skateparks and action sports, click on the links to academic research studies in the next window, or take a look at the quotes at the bottom of the page.
If your town doesn’t have a skatepark, it is a skatepark.
Without a local skatepark, action sports enthusiasts of all ages and types don’t have a legal or safe place to practice their sport. They are forced to find what little space around town that can be skated, often illegally, leading to a contentious relationship with authority and lack of understanding of the value of the activity and the participant.
In the worst cases, skaters or bikers are forced to ride in or near busy streets, resulting in dangerous conditions. The vast majority of fatalities on a skateboard are traffic related.
When there is a local public skatepark in town, it becomes a popular gathering place for individuals to freely participate in their passion. To exercise, learn, create and self regulate. Recent academic research is revealing the benefits of skateparks and skateboarding:
A first-of-its-kind study of skateboarding culture from the University of Southern California reveals that skateboarding improves mental health, fosters community, and encourages diversity and resilience.
Communities that implement public skateparks quickly discover that it’s often the most utilized recreation facility in town. Scroll down to learn more.
Note: TSP staff is made up of skateboarders that value street skating and the creative ethos attached to it. Street skating will never disappear, but every one deserves access a safe place to ride without getting hassled.
Public Skateparks are the result of community collaboration in response to a lack of suitable action sports recreation space. Unfortunately skateparks are not yet automatically inserted into the common municipal Master Plan as more traditional athletic facilities are, like Baseball fields and Basketball courts are (fun fact: There used to be “No Stickball” signs for kids playing baseball in the streets when they didn’t have local ball field… Sound familiar?)
These days, some cities get on board early and develop public skateparks on their own accord, bringing in the locals to help with design and community engagement at a later stage. But in general, it usually takes a dedicated local to start the process. The local volunteer (advocate) starts by learning how the process works. They then help lead the project and learn along the way. They get a group together to help, get organized and start to gather support from the city and the public. They work with the city, raise awareness and help raise funds. The whole process takes about 2-5 years of a little time every week or so. It’s not for everyone, but every skatepark is made by someone like you stepping up to make change in their community.
The process of creating a public skatepark through activism/advocacy is outlined below. Check out this simple list to get a good idea of what it takes, then watch our Skatepark 101 video below. If you’re serious about starting a project, the Public Skatepark Development Guide will be your best friend throughout the process.
It’s a fairly straightforward process, with a few key steps. The order shifts a little bit, as some items happen around the same time. Projects initiated by city employees should include similar steps.
1) Build your Core Group (your local crew, parents of kids who skate, general supporters)
2) Establish Regular Meetings (weekly or bi weekly, time and location)
3) Make a Plan (name of group, size of park, main points, general guidelines of the project: be positive and prepared)
4) Connect with the City to create Steering Committee (Parks and Rec, City Council presentation, site selection, etc.)
5) Connect with a Skatepark Design/Construction Firm (continue refining your plan, begin design process)
6) Find a Place for Donations (most likely a local service organization acting as your bank or a fiscal sponsor)
7) Fundraise (most of the work, but there are a lot of fun events; you’ll meet the whole town, establishing yourself and team as the group creating the skatepark)
8) Prepare for Construction Process (work with the city, take steps to ensure quality, qualification process, construction bids, etc.)
9) Let it Happen!
Watch the Skatepark 101 Webinar to learn some of the fine points before starting or finishing a project.
You can also listen to a 20 minute podcast on how skateparks work.
If you’re seeking guidance on your very first actions in skatepark activism, check out our new Getting Started page on Skatepark.org.
If you”re in the middle of an existing skatepark project, use the contact form at the bottom of the page to connect with our staff. We’ll be happy to help if you have specific questions, want to enroll in our Technical Assistance Program, or apply for a grant.
Throughout your journey, be sure to learn as much as you can about all aspects of skatepark advocacy projects here: www.publicskateparkguide.org If you’re serious about a skatepark project, this is where to study up. The PSDG has everything you need to know about a skatepark project.
Skateparks build and sustain healthy communities. As a gathering place for dedicated, athletic youth, the skatepark provides the forum for visitors young and old, beginning and skilled, to meet and share experiences. For many skateboarding youth, the skatepark becomes a home-away-from-home.
More than anyone, young people need to feel like they are recognized and appreciated by their communities. In too many places skateboarders get the wrong message from local authorities who limit or outlaw skateboarding and ignore its inherent benefits. Skateparks are the solution. Every skatepark supports hundreds of kids that might otherwise have nowhere to go.
Not only does the local skatepark support Skateboarders, BMX riders, Roller Skaters, Scooter riders, Wheel Chair Motocross riders and inline skaters of all ages, genders and backgrounds, having access to attractive and accessible recreation facilities affects the broader health outcomes of of the community. Skatepark users mental, emotional and physical health is affected by their participation in their passion. These effects likely resonate through the rider’s relationships and into the community.
The Skatepark Project doesn’t build skateparks, we help people get skateparks built. This usually means ongoing conversations with advocates or city officials about the local skatepark project or citywide skatepark system. We offer free, unlimited support to assist project leaders in their efforts to follow best practices and avoid common pitfalls.
Our services can include:
-Peer to Peer Learning Opportunities
-Workshops & Skatepark Summits (link to schedule below)
-Access to Learning Materials (Pubic Skatepark Guide.org, The Skatepark Podcast) (LINKS)
-Letters of Support
-Social Media Acknowledgement
TSP Programs Department Support
Our team is ready and willing to support any skatepark project that fits our mission and priorities. Reach out to us at Contact@skatepark.org or use the contact form below.
Built To Play – If you live in SE Michigan or Western NY, you may be eligible to receive up to $300,000 in matching grants thanks to the Built to Play Program with support from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation
From Nolan Hillard, Long Trail School junior:
“Being a part of the Skatepark committee has given me the chance to experience civic involvement at a young age. Being a sixteen year old, the skatepark committee was a great way for me to take part in the community and be an active citizen and it gives me the chance to see how the system works from the inside. Over the course of the project, I became more confident and comfortable with the team members on the committee and I had the time to fully understand the new design and get used to the details of the new park. When I first joined the committee, I was under the impression that the skatepark project would be finished within 8 months at most but after being part of the process, I can see that anything involving a community takes time because there is a lot of coordination required.
The response to the project from my peers is very positive. I have had many kids come up to me at school and ask about when the skatepark will be built or any other details that they are interested in. Everyone who has asked questions about the park seems excited about the project and the outcome.
The skatepark is important to me because I really want to improve my skills on the scooter and the NEW skatepark is the perfect place for that. Another reason that the skatepark is important to me is that it is going to be a great attraction in Manchester which will bring people together and entertain thousands of people for years to come. The skatepark committee is a great thing to be part of and I can’t wait for everyone to enjoy the new park.”
“This has brought our community leaders together with merchants and skaters across all ethnicities and socio-economic levels to understand each other: from skaters wanting and needing a place to skate to business owners seeing the value of providing a place to skate so that our city as a whole isn’t a giant skatepark with the misperceptions that can come from it.”
“I learned that anything is possible and in 2019 I will be running for City Council.”
“There was no single project that was undertaken during my years as Mayor that had a bigger and more positive impact on the community. The skatepark is used constantly, it is used by people of all sizes, shapes, colors, genders, ages, you name it, people visit our skatepark, they love our skatepark and perhaps more importantly, they work very hard to protect and maintain our skatepark. It is emblematic of what community is all about and I could not be more proud to have been a part of making it happen. And more grateful to the The Skatepark Project for their role.”
Mayor Jennifer Laird White
“My involvement in the project has included engaging with local youth, which is a group I don’t interface with frequently in this role. It is positive to see this age group involved in a project in their community and I hope that the experience will encourage them to be engaged citizens throughout their lives.”
-Tom Devine, City of Salem.
“The park is used by skaters from early morning to late into the evening. The activity in the park has reduced or almost eliminated homeless people from living on the site. Business at the adjacent commercial businesses and restaurants has improved.”
– Maurice Kaufman, City of Emeryville