April 03 2013

A Skate Park By Skaters, For Skaters in New Orleans

Skaters at Peach OrchardIf New Orleans is considered to be a city of resilience, the story of the Peach Orchard skate park is a shining example, demonstrating that great things are possible through grassroots citizen action.

As skateboarding became widespread among youth and young adults across the nation, New Orleans lagged behind in providing infrastructure and recreational space for these skaters. In 2010, seeing insufficient action from the city, a group of local skaters and friends chose to do something and built a guerilla-style DIY skate park called Peach Orchard.

Peach Orchard existed near the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks underneath the I-610 overpass in Gentilly, New Orleans. Without official help from architects and urban planners, skaters selected an unused piece of land, designed ramps, pipes and jumps, and created the park themselves with donated concrete, materials, and plenty of sweat equity.

Peach Orchard thrived for two years as the only skate park in New Orleans. It became a destination for teenagers and young professionals who shared a common love for skating. The park was constantly under construction, with new ramps and improvements built by the users of the park themselves. Peach Orchard served a recreational function that the city lacked. It did so until May 2012 when Norfolk Southern, the owner of 100 feet of land on either side of the railroad, demolished the skate park due to graffiti concerns.

Skate parkJust twelve days after the demolition, the skaters at Peach Orchard began pouring concrete and rebuilding a new skate park just blocks away from the old site. Through fundraisers and Saturday workdays, skaters created a place for themselves in the city again. Like the old site, this was an unofficial, guerilla skate park built without permission on public land underneath the freeway overpass. The DIY nature of this skate park gave it a precarious status, with the threat of demolition constantly lingering.

Recently, the Peach Orchard skate park finally won some guarantees of stability. In February 2013, the City of New Orleans voted to designate Peach Orchard an official skate park under the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission. In addition to Peach Orchard, more skate parks are coming to New Orleans, including Lil Wayne’s skate park in the Lower Ninth Ward and a potential skate park along the forthcoming Lafitte Greenway.

As the city begins to embrace venues for skaters, the story of Peach Orchard reminds us that it was citizen-led action and a DIY mentality that brought skate parks and attention to skaters’ needs in New Orleans.

What else can cities do to be wonderful places for skaters? How else can cities leverage citizen-propelled initiatives to create official plans?

Credits: Photos by Jessica Yoon. Data linked to sources.

Jessica Yoon

Jessica Yoon is a native Oregonian, currently residing in New Orleans, Louisiana. She holds a B.S. in Urban and Regional Studies from Cornell University, where she became interested in how great places can promote both equity and prosperity. She is primarily interested in how smart planning and design initiatives, combined with inspired real estate development projects, can create wonderful urban places for people to live, work, and thrive. Jessica reports on new initiatives and urban developments in New Orleans, where a fast pace of progress raises hope for a vibrant future for the city and region. Beyond her work as a marketing professional and blogger, Jessica enjoys riding her bicycle, eating her way through the city’s food scene, and listening to economics podcasts.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013 at 9:32 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Land Use. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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One Response to “A Skate Park By Skaters, For Skaters in New Orleans”

  1. Arianne Dabney Says:

    Hi Jessica, when time permits, may you contact me to discuss a few questions about the skate park that I have. I thank you in advance for you time. Have a wonderful day.

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