Sandy Monahan, then a volunteer for Delhi Township Parks and Recreation, was asked to be responsible for 150 kids from the west side of Cincinnati, who wanted to attend a mobile skatepark series expo in that city. She realized there was a need in her own community for a permanent skate plaza.
“I also had a mom and a couple of her friends ask if we would look at putting in a skatepark,” says Monahan. “I began researching skate plazas and potential funding sources, as well as educating key people on the benefits of the skatepark.”
Monahan later became the parks and recreation director, and pursued the skate plaza idea by engaging elected officials and the community to join in on the project.
“We did have some people with concerns. There are a lot of things said about skatepark kids that are inaccurate,” says Monahan. “I have found those kids to have more of an individual mind-set. They just have their own uniforms and ways of speaking.”
After much research, Monahan applied for an Ohio Land and Water Conservation Grant but was turned down. She was then advised to let the grant roll into an Ohio NatureWorks Grant, and in 2006 she succeeded to the tune of $83,822. The grant was an 80/20 match, with Delhi Township Parks and Recreation Department matching 20 percent. The grand total for the skate plaza project was $111,822.
Builders Who Skate
Now came the hard part: learning what the kids who had been skating along curbs, handrails and steps of area businesses really wanted in a skate plaza. After all, there wasn’t much of a point in building a skate plaza if no one would use it. The township also needed something with low repair and maintenance costs.
“Nick Accurso, the owner of Anonymous Skateboard Shop, was instrumental in helping with the layout and design,” says Monahan. “We wanted to keep our skate plaza geared for the younger generation.”
“I jumped in and took Sandy around to successful and failing skateparks,” says Accurso. “The wooden ones just aren’t fun. A skatepark needs to feel like what the kids are used to skating on. It needs to be modeled after their favorite places.”
It was a tricky proposition–getting honest input from the kids. “We built a little model of what we thought the kids would want and then let them pick and choose,” says Accurso. “It is important that you have people who are skateboarders themselves involved in getting the input as well as building the design.”
Accurso also warns of trying to save money by having a street department crew build a skatepark. “Just because someone can pour concrete doesn’t mean that they know what needs to go into the creation of a skatepark,” says Accurso. “You really need to have a skatepark designer who understands the flow and the difference even one-sixteenth of an inch can make.”
Choosing A Company
Cincinnati-based Suburban Rails is a skatepark design and construction company owned and operated by skateboarders. Employees of the company were asked to bring their design expertise and knowledge to help create Delhi’s skate plaza.
“The best designs are based on what the kids are skating on,” says James O’Loughlin, designer with Suburban Rails. “We like to listen to the kids and add our expertise to make a design that is visually pleasing and works for the kids.”
“People don’t realize they can get three times the park by going with concrete versus modular,” says Lewis Ross, operations manager with Suburban Rails. “Plus you can have the skatepark custom-made and easily expandable.
Go with a company that has a good reputation with skateboarders, listens, and delivers on target.”
“You also want to go with someone who is truly concerned about meeting your needs, not in just making money off of you,” says Accurso. “Some companies just want to come and sell you the prefab products, which don’t hold up well, and when you need them to fix something or need expertise–they just aren’t there for you.”
Suburban Rails recommends dedicating time and resources to learning how to raise money. They also suggest looking closely at in-kind donations from concrete companies and financial support from companies within the area.
Plus, don’t overlook the value of a great reference librarian who can help you tap into grants as well as understands the principles of grant writing.
“We have had to institute some rules,” says Monahan. “The trustees saw the need for additional improvements, such as a fence around the skate plaza. The fence helps us have better control over the area.”
Monahan strongly recommends locating the skatepark in a very visible location. “Our plaza is right next to the snack bar and restroom facility. We also have picnic benches around the area shaded by trees.”
“Our rules include no food, beverages or smoking in the plaza,” says Monahan. When the area first opened, it was such a huge attraction that kids were sitting on the skate plaza; now, only people who are skateboarding or parents helping younger skateboarders are permitted inside the skate plaza area.
Monahan recommends partnering with the local skate shop where the kids hang out to help skaters understand acceptable behavior. “You need to network heavily with the kids. We also encourage adult participation,” says Monahan. “We keep open communications with the people who use the park as well as the people who live near the park.”
Monahan noted that the kids have taken ownership of the park, and didn’t appreciate someone using the skate plaza as a canvas for graffiti. “Immediately, the very same day, I had a group of a dozen or more skatepark kids voluntarily cleaning it off their park,” says Monahan.
The Delhi Township skatepark covers 12,000 square feet, and has embankments, stairs, handrails, grind boxes, bowl corner, two embankments with wall rides and hubba, which is raised concrete that runs parallel to stairs.
“We are pleased with the results. Each day we have between 60 and 100 kids using the skate plaza. The kids who were once getting into trouble for skating on business properties now have a place to skate,” says Monahan. “We’ve even had a few local competitions.”
Skateparks Are Growing
As more parks and recreation departments are required to do more with less, a low-maintenance, low-manpower skate plaza fits the bill while also providing a safe and healthy recreational opportunity for people of all ages.
For more information on developing a skatepark, log on to www.skatepark.org or http://www.tonyhawkfoundation.org/ to get started.
Tammy York is a freelance copywriter specializing in outdoor recreation. Her upcoming book, “60 Hikes within 60 Miles of Cincinnati,” is due out in spring 2009. You may reach her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.