Skateboarding is legally recognized as a “hazardous recreational activity.” While this categorization seems dour it is actually an interesting bit of legalese that enables cities to construct skate parks without fearing legal liabilities. Skate parks in North American cities are being constructed at a record pace. And in 2005 an organization of skaters, activists, and business men formed Public Square Group to bring safe public skate parks to downtown Cleveland, Ohio.
Backing up a bit, a skate park is a designated purpose built space for skateboarding and BMX-ing. The first parks were built in California in the late 1970s. Cleveland, a city of more than three hundred thousand people, hasn’t had a single legal skate park since the closing of the temporary North Coast Harbor Park in 2010. With an estimated 10,000 active skateboarders in Northeast Ohio, Public Square Group is pushing urban planning initiatives for parks in several Cleveland neighborhoods, most importantly the new Crooked River Skatepark.
The planned 15,000 square foot park is to be located on the Cuyahoga River in the dilapidated “Flats.” The area has already begun to see some resurgence as the Ohio City Bike Coop and Cleveland Rowing Foundation have relocated to nearby lots. The estimated $500,000 cost and upkeep is a low price compared to other more traditional sports facilities and downtown redevelopment plans. Located underneath bridges, the park is engineered to deflect some of Cleveland’s harsher lakefront weather. It will remain in operation almost year-round with hundreds of expected visitors every week. Most importantly, the 2010 death of a skateboarder in Cleveland, after being hit by an automobile on a public street, highlights the civic necessity of providing safe and legal places for skateboarders in the city.
Public Square Group spearheaded the city initiatives to generate funding for the park and secured a $25,000 grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation. They have also engaged architecture design/build firm Gridline to produce the concept design for a retro style concrete skate park. Cleveland is one of the first Midwest cities to integrate a public skate park into its overall downtown redevelopment plan.
What other non-traditional initiatives could be proposed to entice people into shrinking urban centers?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.