“To support a skatepark or not to support a skatepark (at Fourth Street), that is the question”

It’s been a while since I’ve written in my blog, which for some people is probably a good thing and for others who enjoy it, not so much. With the exception of a few issues (most notably the Madison Parking Lot project which I have already written about twice) the Borough has been relatively quiet. That is until recently with the proposal for a skate park proposal for Fourth Street. (There is going to be a meeting on February 27th at 7:00 PM in Council Chambers.)

The Borough’s endeavor of building and maintaining a skate park is a tricky one and here’s my point of view why: unfortunately, there are more than a few parallels between the skate park and the failed arts center. Like the arts center, this is an idea that has come from a “top down” and not from a grass roots “bottom up” approach which as we saw from the arts center resulted in disaster. Skateboarders– like artists– are an independent bunch which doesn’t lend as well to forming associations like, say, baseball or football. Not that there’s anything wrong with being independent-minded.

And since I’ve mentioned baseball, let’s look at that for a minute. Lansdale Little League (now known as the North Penn Baseball Association) is a worthy organization that has support from hundreds of parents, ball players, sponsors and volunteers; collectively, they do everything from cut grass, pull weeds, work the concession stand, raise money and run the organization without financial support from the Borough. It is a true grass roots effort that has been successful.

Now back to the arts center. There were no significant arts organizations that drove the arts center project. There were and are plenty of artists in the area, but there was no cohesive vision for what an arts center should be. Instead, the vision was driven by the Borough Manager at the time, and the design of the building to accommodate the arts was by all measures a complete disaster (the architect had no experience in designing for the arts). The intention to create such a venue for artists was a noble one but naive and mismanaged because there was no real demand for it. If there was, it would have been created here already.

Now onto the skate park. Like the arts center, the proposed skate park has been driven by Borough officials and not necessarily the skate boarders themselves. Of course, the skateboarders want a skate park when dangled out in front of them with no skin in the game, but the reality is that there needs to be some sort of organizational and financial commitment to this project if it is going to work. Already, there has been debate as to whether scooters and BMX bikes will be allowed. Who, in fact, will this skate park serve and who is the driving force behind this project other than Parks Recreation Committee members? Where is the Borough resident or residents that will take ownership of this project?

Continuing in the vein of whom this skate park will serve: according to publicskatepark.org, 1.7% of all youth will use a skate park. They even offer two calculations to determine the number of skateboarders in your town. One takes the total number of inhabitants in town (16,487) multiplied by .043. This makes for 709 skateboarders. The other calculation takes the number of the youth population (those under 18 years old) multiplied by .086 which according to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau was 3,528. This makes for 303 skateboarders. Publicskatepark.org offers additional statistics that show that 70% of skateboarders are 18 years old and under and 77.1% are male. In all fairness, those numbers are a relatively small segment of the population. I do also understand that skateboarders from other municipalities will be welcomed to the skate park, but it will be the residents of Lansdale that pay for this park.

Now on to the current controversy regarding the skate park. The debate isn’t whether there should be one or not, but rather it is the debate as to WHERE it should go. According to the Parks and Recreation Committee and the Police Department, the best place for the skate park is in the grassy field adjoining Fourth Street Pool. There’s one big problem with this: a majority of the residents in this area, the three Council members who represent this Ward and me, the mayor, all believe that the skate park should not be built here. There are other options for placement of this skate park including Ninth Street and a new one proposed option by Councilman Rich DiGregorio and Borough resident, Rita Rubins, which is the newly acquired Freight Station property. I believe this would be a perfect spot for the skate park; it’s centrally located and it’s along the Liberty Bell Trail (which if I’m not mistaken was close to where the original proposal was slated, and it’s the reason why we received the grant from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in the first place).

To force the skatepark into a neighborhood where the residents don’t want it is wrong, especially when other potential locations exist. Furthermore, because there has been no groundswell or history of any organized skateboarding groups, clubs or associations, it would be my recommendation to cultivate these skateboarders into a cohesive organization of parents, skateboarders and donors that will put forth blood, sweat and tears into this project. (Additionally, the question that I also ask is this: if there is such a demand for a skatepark, why aren’t there any privately operated skateparks in the community?)

Lastly, if the only commitment to this project is from the Borough itself, it’s future looks as bright as the arts center. And if completed at the Fourth Street location, it also promises  to pit one group against another group which from my point of view as the mayor is not good for Lansdale.skateboard-photo

 

 

 

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14 responses to ““To support a skatepark or not to support a skatepark (at Fourth Street), that is the question”

  1. I live one block away from fourth street park. I’m a mom with three kids, two boys, 11 & 9, and a girl, 7. All three of my kids own skateboards and all three skate on bumpy sidewalks and sometimes the parking lot of fourth street park, neither ideal. I also sit outside a lot, and I see 5 to 15 skateboarders a day. All skating on the street, mine and line street. Because they have nowhere to go. All the kids I see are under 18. We build playgrounds for kids, not because they are grass roots organization for it, but because it was needed. We build parks for kids. Why not a skate park? I believe your estimates are low, but even if there are only ~700 skateboarders, so what. I see maybe 10 kids a day using fourth street playground, but we aren’t talking about its usefulness. I also see up to 10 kids a day using the parking lot of fourth street park to skate. And it’s not just skateboards, a skate park can be used with scooters, bikes, and roller skates. This is not a top down request, the kids in the area have been looking forward to this for more than five years. Build it and they will come.

  2. Christine Mackowiak

    I agree. If there is not notable grass roots effort behind this, why are we spending $ on it.

  3. These kids need a skate park and a few other parks in Lansdale (and everywhere). Without them they have nothing to do, and nothing to look forward to, which as we all know, especially in this area and with how prevalent heroin and other drug use has become that’s the only thing they can turn to. Please push for this-we’ve lost too many kids to drugs and suicides because they have nothing to help stimulate their brains and “need an escape”. It’s truly difficult nowadays to grow up as a kid in this day and age .

  4. It is my opinion that there is no price tag too large for the betterment of our children’s health and welfare. The youth of today face many challenges that are unique to recent decades. Industrial, technological and environmental changes have made life both easier and more difficult for today’s children. Obesity due to a sedentary lifestyle, substance abuse, erosion of identity, to name a few, also a higher incidence of single parenthood is one other growing social concern that modern youth has had to deal with. With only one parent available to look after them, children have to seek emotional and material support from other people including their peers.
    This skate park has the capability of fulfilling many benefits for our children. There has been much research about the positive impact that physical activity has on youth including but not limited to: strengthen, control weight, reduce anxiety and stress, increase self-esteem, and improve academic performance, social engagement. Aside from the physical benefits, there are other positive effects for both the youth and our city: reduction in illicit behavior, safe environment for this activity, and reduction of damage to private and public property currently being used for skating. Although this project is not intended to be an economic development tool, it has the potential to have a positive effect on businesses in the surrounding area by drawing in folks from the outlying communities to come bring their kids to the skate park, do some shopping, maybe have lunch, buy some gas, etc. attract patrons to local businesses who might not otherwise be in the area.
    Many times adults quickly dismiss ideas because “we’ve tried that before.” Young people are more likely to suggest/want things that have already been tried since they were not around to hear about it the first time, and it would be irresponsible to “judge” the current/future youth on what may have happened in the past. This is why I believe that the Lansdale Borough really needs to be open minded and forward thinking concerning this skate park and the prospect of other youth based projects here in Lansdale.
    I implore you to please make this investment in Lansdale’s youth!

  5. No skatepark they cause nothing but trouble. You put one in and people will be selling and doing drugs all night long. Guaranteed.

  6. mark biedlingmaier

    As a member of the community who has actively pursued local officials to build a skatepark, I will have to respectfully disagree with your comments on the lack of grass-root initiatives from skateboarders. I suggest you do more research on the Wedgewood “skatepark” and the dedicated community who voluntarily maintains the area and actively fundraises for improvement projects via “skate jams”. It would be disappointing to see Lansdale miss out on such an incredible opportunity to provide creative outlets for our youth. If economics is causing hesitation, Im sure the borough of Ambler would be willing to share how they successfully develop, implement and maintain their skatepark facility. I will admit that their are difficult questions to be answered such as where the park would be located but with combined efforts of community leaders I believe we can make this a thriving investment.

  7. My main issue with this article is that the skatepark created in Wedgewood is not mentioned once. This is the best example of “organized skateboarding groups” in Lansdale and the demand for a place to go. The park was built over a decade ago by skateboarders and has been maintained almost entirely by the skateboarders themselves ever since. The skateboarders/bikers of Lansdale, myself included, have also organized many events/competitions to help raise money for any repairs to the park. I, along with other skateboarders/bikers of Lansdale, mentioned these points at the last public meeting discussing the skatepark and I am disappointed that our statements seem to have been completely ignored for this article.

    • Dear Bill,

      Thank you for educating me on the grassroots efforts for a skate park in the Wedgewood neighborhood. Up for debate here is not whether a skate park will happen, but rather WHERE it will happen. As the mayor, I look at both sides of the issue. On one hand, we have neighbors who enjoy the serenity of the open field of 4th Street. They would prefer not to have a skate park in their back yard. They are tax payers and therefore, they are entitled to their position. They have listed their concerns (which are not to be dismissed or taken lightly) in the form of a petition. In short, they are passionate about their park. On the other hand, we have skateboarders who have a passion for their sport and an opportunity to take advantage of government money to build a local skatepark. So in my position, I’d like to find a compromise. There were three places suggested for a skatepark: one was Wedgewood, two was 9th Street and three was 4th Street. Based on criteria such as visibility, access, parking, etc., 4th Street was selected. However, resident input, which is probably one of the most important aspects of this process, was not part of the criteria. So in my shoes, what would you do? Disregard those neighbors who like a quiet park and say more or less, your opinion doesn’t count? Or since there are other options, pursue those? Do you as a skateboarder care more about the location of the skatepark or the quality of the skatepark? Please let me know your thoughts. Please forgive me copying and pasting from Dan’s response.

      • Thank you for responding. My worry was that others who may be opposed to or hesitant on supporting the creation of the park would see a lack of grassroots efforts as another example why the park shouldn’t be built. I am much more concerned with the quality of the park then the location. The 4th street option does seem to be a great location for the park based on the criteria used to research sites. My concern is that if the location is changed, to 9th street for example, there could be a whole new group of people that have an issue with it being there too. I am sure there are some valid concerns from the 4th street residents but I also heard some pretty outrageous and offensive claims at the meeting, similar to the comment above on drug dealing and drug use. A lot of people seem to be imagining the worst-case scenario without speaking to residents who actually live near a skatepark, such as the Wedgewood or Ambler residents, a number of whom came out to the public meeting and had nothing but positive things to say. I am not opposed to a new location but I also know you can’t please everyone. If there is a location that everyone is happy with then I am all for it but I am concerned this will become a cycle of new locations and new complaints. The skatepark has been a topic for 5 years now and would prefer to see it not delayed further.

      • As a skateboarder from lansdale, it’s never about the location. a quality skatepark from beginner to experienced is what is needed!

        As a skateboarder, and others (not all) will agree. We will drive to a skatepark. Ambler, Allentown, West Chester, Philadelphia, Delaware, Baltimore Maryland…. all places that have great skateparks. All of different terrain, and a place to go. Some when indoor. There are a lot of great within driving distance, skateparks that are clean, and function very well!

        As a skateboarder, I am not worried about location. However I am almost 30 and can drive and make my own decisions to go skate where I please! A lot of these younger kids might not have parents or friends that are willing or able to drive them to these places! If there is a skate park IN lansdale, anywhere, it will be a success with the right people willing to clean, organize and keep it safe. Lansdale is a great town with a lot f great residents, and we CAN agree to disagree and make this happen.

        Skateboarders and kids are people too. Not just a bunch of punks that don’t care.

        I will say thank you for this oppurtunity and listening thus far. I respect that people are not ok with this proposal and the place proposed. So let’s work together and find a happy medium.

  8. Ground rules or history or organized skateboard groups?

    The area of Wedgewood has a self built, self maintained, and clean skateboard “park”. The guys raise money with jams, and events and fund changes and additions (with approval) out of their own pocket. Blood, sweat, and tears. Yes there have been incidents there. But nothing is perfect.

    They have even done charity events and donated to causes within the skateboard community close to them. The same could be done to repay the budget or bills to maintain the proposed park.

    Cheapskates indoor skatepark was HUGE before it closed… FDR skatepark in Philadelphia was built by the people, for the people. A lot of those people FROM LANSDALE.

    Yes there are a lot of young kids and teenagers that skateboard but I’d be willing to bet that there are people such as myself (30 years old) and OLDER that would utilize this park AND pitch in on building, cleaning, and organizing events to serve the community.

    • Dear Dan,

      Thank you for educating me on the grassroots efforts for a skate park in the Wedgewood neighborhood. Up for debate here is not whether a skate park will happen, but rather WHERE it will happen. As the mayor, I look at both sides of the issue. On one hand, we have neighbors who enjoy the serenity of the open field of 4th Street. They would prefer not to have a skate park in their back yard. They are tax payers and therefore, they are entitled to their position. They have listed their concerns (which are not to be dismissed or taken lightly) in the form of a petition. In short, they are passionate about their park. On the other hand, we have skateboarders who have a passion for their sport and an opportunity to take advantage of government money to build a local skatepark. So in my position, I’d like to find a compromise. There were three places suggested for a skatepark: one was Wedgewood, two was 9th Street and three was 4th Street. Based on criteria such as visibility, access, parking, etc., 4th Street was selected. However, resident input, which is probably one of the most important aspects of this process, was not part of the criteria. So in my shoes, what would you do? Disregard those neighbors who like a quiet park and say more or less, your opinion doesn’t count? Or since there are other options, pursue those? Do you as a skateboarder care more about the location of the skatepark or the quality of the skatepark? Please let me know your thoughts.

  9. Mayor, thanks for clarifying your original post to others in the comments because I had a diatribe queued up.

    Speaking for myself here, I would be open to compromise on location. What scares the heck out of a lot of us is the quality of the skatepark. Quality speaks to the design and material of the park in general. For example, we must have an architect that specializes in skatepark design. Not anything like what you said about the architect for the Art center. The park needs to be designed for skateboarding. If proposed alternate locations are similar in surface area to design just as high quality a skatepark as the 4th street location then it will work for me.

  10. Here are some thoughts on what I’ve been thinking about Lansdale’s proposed skatepark:

    The Grassroots thing-
    I’m not sure the exact process the borough went through in order to build the Arts Center, but I am glad that there are a decent amount of the skate/bmx community coming together for the idea of a skatepark being built.
    That being said, there have been organized events/fundraisers at the Wedgewood skate spot, they just weren’t recognized by The Reporter or other news outlets- just social media. These events were not only thought up, organized and run by the skate/bike community, they raised sufficient funds and awareness for some of the members of our skate/bike family that have passed.
    (Links to some of the pictures captured at these organized events below – )

    https://postimg.org/gallery/m6azili2/

    That goes to show that our skate community can organize/solicit donations/have a successful event without borough help (much like the mayor mentioned about NP Little League).

    Heroin comment-
    Yes, our town is definitely not the cleanest town in our region. Yes, we do need to get kids outside to exercise both physically and mentally. A skate park is a stress reliever for us, and that can go a long way. Having a place to go skate or bike and blow off some steam is a million times better than trying to blow off some steam by getting high.
    At the borough meeting in October 2016 a young skater told the audience “I was antisocial before I started skateboarding. I would come home from school, stay inside and play video games. I met a lot of friends and gained a lot of confidence about myself from skating.”

    The Location-
    I think the bmx/skate community can agree that the location of the park is significantly less important than the quality of the park. Afterall, we’ve all probably traveled to different parks all over the tri-state area; we just want one in our own town, and have since the 90s.

    Volunteers/an organization-
    “There needs to be some sort of organizational and financial commitment to this project if it’s going to work.”
    I agree that this project should be greatly guided by the skate community and driven forward with our work and dedication. I am sure we can organize community days or fundraisers to get this process started.
    This is a pretty broad overview, but I think the take away is that we as a skate/bike community need to step up and show that this is a grassroots project that we stand behind completely, the location is not a huge issue with us and lets see what direction this takes on Monday 2/27.

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