Incorporating Skaters’ Needs into Local Park Planning

A super-sized, one-size-fits-all skate park does not always make sense. Here’s what skaters want city planners to know.



By Kyle Duvall

Communities aren’t thinking in terms of one skate park, anymore.

“They are thinking in terms of several parks at different levels because that’s what you need to serve skateboarders,” said Tito Porrata, lead designer and founder of Team Pain Skate Parks, which has built a number of public skate parks in cities across the United States.

Skating No Longer an Add-On

It used to be that municipalities were interested in pre-fab options for incorporating skate park elements into their suite of parks and recreation properties. Cities realized legal places to skate were actually few and far between.

But today, there are more than 4,000 skate parks in the United States, according to the Tony Hawk Foundation. Parks are diverse for various reasons, and location is critically important for design. Such as the ability to design elements that go below grade -- that doesn’t fly in some locales.

With skateboarding to debut in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, there is a certain acknowledged legitimacy for the sport and pastime. U.S. cities are beginning to look more deeply into the needs of skaters in their communities as a master planning exercise.

Cities One-Upping Each Other

Cities had a tendency to put skate parks in places with historic crime, but today they are visible assets. In Carlsbad, Calif., a 23,000-square-foot facility was designed as a community showpiece, according to its designer.

"[They] had me on-site at the Carlsbad skate park to answer questions for the media. They wanted to show why Carlsbad was awesome, and they were using the skate park as a centerpiece,” recalled Kanten Russell, a former San Diego skate park advocate and designer and project manager in the action sport division with the firm Stantec.

Russell added that cities are beginning to look over each other’s shoulders and one-up each other on their skate park designs. Today’s hottest master planning trend is to merge skateable art and architecture right into city infrastructure and design.

Framing Skating for All

Skatepark styles can be classified, which helps city planners and administrators understand what skaters need.

Establishing a regional park with multiple smaller sites -- including “skate spots” or “skate dots” in other parks -- spread throughout a region is a master plan with top-down vision. There’s a growing number of skaters riding into their middle ages and beyond, and there is a need to put skate parks closer to where kids live.

But focusing on community outreach to gauge input from all ages is critical to designs that serve the most skaters. The public stature of older skaters can sometimes overly influence skate park designs.

Design firms can also lose sight of the community aspect, designing skate parks to produce talented prodigies, and failing to build camaraderie.

A successful skate park is not dictated by cool designs. It is really dictated by whether or not you are going to see 20 or 30 skaters there every day. That, and are they using all of it, not just one section,” said Russell.

Read the original story on The Ride Channel website.

Andrea Fox is Editor of and Senior Editor at Lexipol. She is based in Massachusetts.