The Skatepark Decision, Part 8

Some people are very particular about how they squeeze their toothpaste. Others could care less. When these two worlds collide you have what is known as the toothpaste tube phenomenon.

It’s amazing that this phenomenon hasn’t received more mainstream press coverage. You won’t see it on 60 Minutes, 60 Minutes II, Dateline, 20/20 or even Extra. So consider this an exclusive…

To understand the toothpaste tube phenomenon and how it relates to parks and recreation, a couple of things need to be established.

First, skateboarding and other youth activities sponsored and run by the parks and recreation department have the obvious benefit of getting kids active in something other than what can be dangerous idle time.

There’s also a not-so-obvious benefit that’s actually a double benefit, particularly as it relates to skating. And it helps eliminate the toothpaste tube phenomenon.

The Right Direction

A few years ago, a north Portland, Ore. business association asked the local police to do something about skateboarders using their sidewalks and anything on those walks for urban jumps and obstacles. The businesspeople basically wanted the police to harass and ticket the kids until they went away, if they ever did.

“I thought it was a short-sighted approach to the issue since it would displace the problem somewhere else. We would end up chasing this problem all over north Portland,” says Scott Winegar, commander of the family services division of the Portland Police Department.

“Doesn’t it make more sense to give them a place that’s productive, fun and safe to go? And if we find them somewhere they’re not supposed to be — such as riding up on the architecture and statuary of the water bureau, which was happening at the time — we can go there and say, ‘You can’t skate here, but you can skate here. Here’s the bus line, it’s in a park, it’s lit and it’s a nice facility.’ It just made more sense to me.”

Winegar points out how the toothpaste tube phenomenon plays out in real life, and its effect on the police and the community at large. Here, Winegar makes a strong argument for the toothpaste squeezer who pays attention to the tube, carefully sending it to the opening where it belongs, while progressively flattening the back of the tube.

This is in stark contrast to the toothpaste user who squeezes indiscriminately. Next thing you know, toothpaste can be found lumped willy-nilly here and there along the tube, wasting toothpaste and making it difficult to work with.

And so it is with skateboarders. Winegar’s point was to provide a logical outlet that would not squeeze skaters in the wrong direction — namely other Portland business districts.

Nearly eight years after the skateboard nuisance subject was broached, Winegar’s idea that a skatepark would keep the kids off the streets, thereby allowing the police department to concentrate its time and resources in more important venues, has played out perfectly.

And, since Winegar was one of the catalysts for building the park, he brought the added benefit of a police perspective. Perhaps the most important thing gleaned from this perspective that any parks and recreation department considering a skatepark should consider is visibility.

“The skatepark is designed so that the police can drive by three out of the four sides of the park, and from those vantage points they can drive by, look into the park and see just about everywhere in the park. From a police standpoint, that was very important,” says Winegar.

“If you have structures or places where people can hide, it lends itself to the possibility of a crime problem. Using Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) it was designed so that it could be patrolled and policed easily, not only by the police. The neighbors can look out their window and see everything in the park and that contributes to the self-policing nature of the park.”

Winegar adds that people naturally expect the police to take care of behavioral problems or criminal activity at any public venue, be it a skatepark or a picnic area. Given that fact, collaboration with the police provides countless benefits.

Many communities simply seek the police department’s approval for a new facility. They want buy-in so that the police department won’t resent, and possibly neglect, adding a new area to their patrol schedule. Winegar recommends the extra step, and that is to seek law enforcement expertise in creating a self-policing environment.

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Related posts:

  1. The Skatepark Decision, Part 1
  2. Creating A Skatepark
  3. Feeling Minnesota
  4. Home Sweet Home
  5. Skatepark in Action
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