FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

Your interested in public skatepark development, but have some questions.  This FAQ section should help explain in more detail what we doing and how you can help.

1. Why are skateparks beneficial to El Paso?

The easy answer is that they provide a place for kids who aren’t attracted to traditional team sports a place to go and express themselves in an individual and athletic manner. Getting kids, particularly at-risk kids, involved in a personal and esteem-building activity like skateboarding helps them build the confidence to do well in other aspects of their lives.

The 13-million skateboarders in America only have about 2,000 skateparks nationwide. That means the vast majority of them are skating in the streets. Skateparks, even the more challenging ones, are far safer than kids rolling through busy streets. And when parks are built right–with local skater input and involvement throughout the process–those youngsters develop a sense of ownership and pride. The very existence of the park is the result of their hard work. They worked with civic and local business leaders, with each other on design elements, and with the community to find a suitable location. These previously disenfranchised skaters, who once ran from the police, find themselves working with the police and city and community as a whole. It’s a transformational process for these young people.

It might be useful to survey kids in your area. Ask them if they currently use the athletic fields and ball courts your city offers, and if they’d like to have a skatepark as well. You’ll be surprised to find out how many kids who aren’t interested in traditional sports would jump at the chance to skate a good park, or have the opportunity to learn to.

2. Why do we need the El Paso Skatepark Association?

Most city leaders who are trying to provide public skatepark facilities are not skateboarders.  The El Paso Skatepark Association was formed by veteran skateboarders who understand the nuances of developing high-quality skateparks that will attract and retain riders.  Specifically, we are helping city leaders with funding/donations, design/build input and maintenance needs.

3. What happens to my donation?

We work strictly as volunteers and all money raised goes toward developing future skateparks (example: buying construction materials) and maintaining our existing skateparks (example: buying repair materials.)  The El Paso Skatepark Association has a wish-list of potential lower-cost skate spots and larger skateparks we would like to fund.

4. What other funding sources are available for El Paso skateparks?

Funding can come from a variety of sources.  For a large-scale skatepark project (20,000 square feet and bigger) a Community Development Block Grant might be our best bet.  CDBG grants are awarded to lower-income neighborhood improvement projects like providing affordable housing, streets, lights and parks.  The $625,000 Carolina Skatepark was funded by a CDBG grant.  The El Paso Skatepark Association has identified more than 50 CDBG eligible parks in the city.

Other potential funding sources include:  Neighborhood Improvement Funds, Public Arts Funding, bond elections, Tony Hawk Foundation Grants, corporate signage, grassroots efforts and in-kind donations of concrete and other construction materials and services.

5. The City of El Paso has 10 public skateparks, why do we need more?

Every neighborhood deserves recreational opportunities. In 2007, the Sporting Goods Manufacturer’s Association estimates that 1 in 7 kids rides a skateboard.  Based on that formula, El Paso County has about 10,625 skateboarders.

The average skateboarder is 14 years old, which means they do not drive a car and finding transportation to a high-quality skatepark may not be readily available.  A well-conceived skatepark system on a community-wide scale will provide accessible recreational opportunities for kids in or close to their neighborhoods.

Offering recreational activities to young children helps them develop healthy, active lifestyles.  Providing a skatepark for youth also helps them feel that the community is addressing their needs. It helps them to feel more connected and encourages good citizenship.

6. How many kids really skate at El Paso public skateparks?

A high quality, progressive skatepark will be one of the city’s most used recreational facilities.  Our attendance surveys found that Carolina Skatepark had anywhere from 50-100 users on any given night during the summer of 2007.  We often found more than 15 users at Carolina Skatepark on any given Saturday or Sunday afternoon, despite 100-plus degree heat, while the adjacent basketball was completely empty.

In truth, many skateboarders will always seek the glory of challenging obstacles in the streets that were never meant to be ridden – benches, stairs, ditches and empty swimming pools.  Pick up any major skateboard magazine and check out what people are skating.  About half the photos show various forms of “organic” street skating while the other half features skateboarding in progressive concrete skateparks.  Many of these high quality skateparks now mimic skateable urban architecture in the form a street plaza designs and address the specific challenges today’s skaters are looking for.

7. What makes a good skatepark?

We break it down into 3 elements:  flow, mix of terrain and creature comforts.  Flow means the ability to skate from obstacle to obstacle without any interruption of speed.  Mix of terrain means a variety of obstacles that skaters of all ability levels can progress their skills on. Creature comforts are things like water fountains, shade, tables and benches.

Good skateparks do not necessarily have to be large skateparks.  Well-built, smaller skate spots can provide challenging terrain that doesn’t cost a lot of money or draw high skater traffic to a particular site.

8.  How much does a good skatepark cost?

Skatepark cost can vary greatly.  The primary expenses are construction and design.

On the expensive side, a quality facility involving a high-end skatepark construction company, landscape architect and skatepark designer can cost as much a $40 per square foot.  At this rate, a 20,000 square foot facility would cost $800,000.

However, there are many precedents of quality skateparks being built for a more affordable price.  In 2005, Amarillo hired Grindline Skateparks to design/build a 9,000 square foot facility at a cost of $236,000 and Dreamland Skateparks designed/built a 10,000 square foot facility in Hammond, Louisiana for only $80,000.  A smaller, neighborhood street course was built in Maneo, North Carolina for under $50,000.

DIY (do-it-yourself) is the least expensive alternative.  There are many examples of successful DIY skatepark projects around the country like Burnside (Portland), Washington Street (San Diego), and Marginal Way (Seattle) where skateboarder-led organizations raise money and do the construction themselves.  The Austin Skatepark Action Committee is working on a stand-alone concrete mini-ramp project in Patterson Park for less than $3,500 with all the money raised by the group.  The San Antonio Skatepark Association made improvements to LBJ Skatepark by building a skateable ledge with a materials cost of only $100.

The El Paso Skatepark Association wants to help connect city leaders with qualified skatepark builders and other resources to build the best skatepark at the right price!

9. Are kids at skateparks exposed to drugs and other negative influences?

It’s a misconception that skateparks somehow contribute to juvenile delinquency – skaters need to be focused and alert, particularly in a skatepark setting, to maintain their balance and to perform the maneuvers they do. Skateboarding, by its very nature, is an anti-drug. So it’s safe to say that a skatepark full of kids is a skatepark full of kids not getting stoned.

A skatepark is a place where skaters get together and enjoy the space, the camaraderie, and the physical thrill of riding. An outdoor, open, highly visible location – as most skateparks are – is not the place to bully kids, use drugs, or be a nuisance. Skaters are there for a reason, and are very good at policing each other about behavior that interferes with their enjoying the park.

Because of their choice of fashion and the prevailing stereotypes, skaters are often pegged as outcasts and delinquents, even though their choice of activities and style of dress really have nothing to do with their personalities, GPA, or habits. Bringing these individuals into the process of planning and building a public skatepark also exposes adults and civic leaders to the people behind the T-shirts and torn jeans. As much as the skaters learn about their local government, local leaders are typically the ones who learn the most.

A well-built skatepark that reflects the needs of the local skaters is a hive of creative, physical activity, a place where kids and adults who enjoy skateboarding come together and are focused on their sport. It’s an inherently positive institution.

10. Should bikes be allowed in skateboard parks?

Skateboarders and freestyle-BMX riders have much more in common than they do differences, but safety should be paramount when deciding whether to mix user groups at any specific skatepark facility.

There some very real concerns from skateboarders who are reluctant to use a skatepark while freestyle-BMX riders are in the park. The handlebars, pegs, and other projections on a bicycle can cause serious injuries, and the ability of bikes to move quickly on 20-inch wheels an make sudden sharp turns only increases the likelihood that a skater, who has more limited turning abilities, may run into them.

Mixing user groups safely is often a product of skatepark design – a flowbowl course with small decks, blind corners and criss-crossing traffic patterns is prone to collisions, especially during high traffic sessions.  In a skatepark with bigger decks and more linear traffic patterns, riders are more likely to see each other, allow each other space and safely share a course.

Concerns of potential damage to the skatepark from bike use can be mitigated through design, construction techniques, and materials.

Successful inclusion of freestyle-BMX riders or other user groups is always most successful when those groups are involved on the skatepark steering committees throughout the process. Skateparks often requires years of persistent advocacy, and the individuals responsible for those efforts will naturally feel more entitled to the skatepark than members of potential user groups that were not involved in the effort.

11. I have more questions about public skateparks.  Who do I ask?

One of the most comprehensive sources for no-nonsense advice on every aspect of the public skatepark process is www.skatersforpublicskateparks.org.  They address issues on topics like vision, advocacy, fundraising, management and DIY.  Thru online forums, people can ask specific questions and chat with a worldwide network of skatepark advocates and builders.