Archive for the “Call to Action” Category

Every Northwest skater knows how important the Orcas Island skatepark is to our culture.  Now it seems that the behavior of a few, and a lack of stewardship has led the local school district down the path of potentially closing the park.

The Orcas park, built by the early Grindline/Dreamland crew, stands as a monument to design/build creativity and skatepark design.  Legendary filmmaker Warren Miller got behind the project, and funded the majority of the construction through his foundation.  The community got behind it, and produced a true destination skatepark that draws skaters from all over the world to one of the most remote and beautiful skateboarding experiences on the planet.

But that remote “destination” quality also gave some skaters the impression they could relax when it comes to respecting the rules.  Helmets are required at Orcas, and several times throughout the years issues and controversy have erupted when skaters refused to comply.  Pro skate teams have always been averse to wearing helmets because some feel they make for lame photos, but two years ago a Seattle skater who was visiting actually disrespected Warren Miller with foul language when he was told by the park’s godfather to strap on a lid.

These types of issues are totally the exception, and most skateparks are self-policed and positive places.  But this is the type of crap that makes it hard for local advocates to get skateparks built in thier own communities.  Seattle skaters need to watch this episode carefully and step back a bit to consider how their behavior can have averse effects on the health of our community.

There are a few things you can do right now to help improve the situation at Orcas, and in your own local skatepark:

  • Write a letter, email, or call the Orcas Island School Board and let them know that you are a skateboarder, and that you support them in taking measures to improve the environment at the park, but insist that closing the park is not the solution:

Orcas Island Schools
557 School Road
Eastsound, WA 98245

Administrative Office:
(360) 376-2284

Barbara Kline (Superintendent) bkline@orcas.k12.wa.us

David Mierau (Maintenance Dept. Facilities Director) dmierau@orcas.k12.wa.us

Scott Lancaster ihsscott@rockisland.com

  • Take action when you witness behavior at a skatepark that could threaten the positive environment there.  Call BS on people who insist on bringing alcohol into the park.  It can be done in a way that’s respectful, just explain that you want to be able to keep skating there and that we want more parks to be built.  Take ownership of your park… your park will love you for it.
  • Form a “Friends of” group for your skatepark.  The City of Seattle has a program that’s pretty easy to enroll in.

Hopefully this wake up call will only result in a heightened awareness of how our behavior in skateparks can either have a positive or negative affect on our ability to enjoy safe and accessible public skateparks.  We’re all ambassadors for skateboarding when we’re in public skateparks.  If you feel it, reach out.  If not, just don’t act like an idiot.

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It’s no secret that the Citywide Skatepark Plan left the urban core out in the cold.  The lack of available public space, fear of public backlash in high-density neighborhoods, and some of the highest property values in the city all contributed to a lack of motivation when the Parks Department was assembling a list of possible sites for skateparks.  When the Citywide Skatepark Plan task force expressed their concern about this, we were told that this is where skatedots would come in…smaller individual features would fill the gaps in higher-density urban areas that could not support a larger skatespot or skatepark.

Parks acquired a lot at John and Summit back in January of 2007 as a part of the Pro-Parks Levy.  Since then, Seattle Parks has been working through the development process, and there have already been 3 public meetings during which the idea of implementing a skatedot had been suggested by locals.  Several skaters have been advocating for a skatedot at this site, including the staff, management, and clientele of the nearby skate-HQ, 35th North.

But a few months ago, the communication from Seattle Parks started to get …ummm… sketchy.  What started out as a seemingly supportive position sudddenly started to morph into the classic backpedaling that has happened in so many other sites when back-channel opposition starts to come in via email and phone calls from well connected people.  The message went from “we welcome the participation of the skateboarders in creating a potential skatedot”, to “we’re not sure if there’s enough public support for this feature”.

The local advocates then reached out to the SPAC, who started bridging communication between Parks and the advocates, and also contacted Grindline about possibly providing some pro-bono conceptual designs to help show concerned community members exactly what they should or should not be worried about.  Grindline graciously agreed to help, but have been hitting snags because both Parks and Mithun (the contractor signed up to design the park) have been saying they don’t want to move forward until they know the skatedot will for sure be a part of the project.

What’s really unclear, is what stage the project is in.  Parks project manager Lynn Sullivan had previously told advocates that it was unclear whether or not the skatedot had enough support in the community, so a petitioning process was started (you can still sign it at 35th N).  Today in an email, she is now suggesting that skaters focus their efforts on working through a small team of representatives at the next public meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday, September 10,
from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at the Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church
(1729 Harvard Ave).  The idea, according to Sullivan, is not to spook the concerned neighbors who are opposed to the skatedot with a large number of bloodthirsty skateboarders at the meeting.  But the issues appear to be noise concerns and potential for pedestrian/skater conflicts, two issues that can easily be mitigated through design and basic park closure enforcement.  Neither issue is necessarily contentious or controversial.

I have an email in to Parks asking for clarification on whether or not this project is officially green-lit, or if it’s still pending some sort of assessment of community approval.  Once again, it seems like Parks is trying to do the right thing by managing negative reactionary blowback, but in the process they are playing a coy game of politics that breeds distrust from all parties involved.  It seems like transparency and the open sharing of information would not only help move these projects along, but it would allow for more opportunities for the pro and anti-skate folks to demystify their positions and educate one another.

Regardless of the snags in the process, it really can’t hurt to err on the safe side, so please shoot an email to lynn.sullivan@seattle.gov and let her know you support a skatedot in this park.  This much-needed skatedot is at a critical juncture in the public process.  As I get more updates on the status of the project, I’ll post them here.

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Skate Like a Girl, an organization that promotes and encourages young women to discover the joy of skateboarding, is looking for your stories, photos, and video:

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Hey SLAGsters-

We need your help! We have a great opportunity to get a mini documentary about SLAG produced by Reel Grrls, and we need to have footage and photos of gals of all ages skateboarding and having fun from SLAG 2000 to today, or your own personal skate history. If you have photos or footage, please email us and let us know. You can email us the actual footage or links, you could also send it via the post office or meet up with us.

If you are free the week of March 6-9th and would like to come out tell us about your own SLAG stories, please email by March 2nd.

Hope all is well.

Thanks!


Fleur Larsen and Nancy Chang
Skate Like a Girl Co-Directors
skatelikeagirl.com <http://skatelikeagirl.com>
(360)790-4293
617 20th ave E
Seattle Wa 98112

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Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m @ Northgate Community Center:

Northgate Urban Center Park Redevelopment –

Parks Dept says: “At this meeting, the community can participate in creating a vision for the transformation of the 3.73 acres of mostly asphalt property to a new green urban park. Now a King County Park and Ride facility, the future park is located at the intersection of 5th Avenue NE and NE 112th Street.”

SSdotO: This project has been in the works for a long time. There is a Project Advisory Team already assembled, and it has a skateboarder representative on it. The downside is that the Northgate meetings for the City-wide skatepark plan were the most contentious, with people like Kris Fuller walking around writing “Skateboarders take and deal drugs” on the comment boards.

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Monday, Feb. 25, 2008 from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m @ Park Board Room, Denny Park, 100 Dexter Ave N:

Pro Parks Levy Oversight Committee –

Parks Dept says: “As part of his 2008 proposed budget, Mayor Greg Nickels will infuse Seattle neighborhoods with a one-time $7 million “Orphaned Parks Wish Fund.” If adopted by the City Council, this would be one of the largest funds of its kind in the city’s history. Every neighborhood will be eligible for funding to improve its parks.”

SSdotO: We reported on the announcement of this fund back in October, and it’s pretty huge. Sure, we’ve got a citywide skatepark plan, but there is no funding for any of it. We can’t skate a plan. It’s important that the Pro Parks Levy Oversight Committee hears about how they totally screwed up when they passed a 198.2 million dollar levy with absolutely zero-point-zero dollars earmarked for skateparks. It’s time to correct that oversight and make it right by directing some of this orphaned park money to skatepark development.

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myrtle_hp.jpgSeattle Parks is having it’s second meeting for the Myrtle Reservoir project. This project already has funding, and is slated for an 11,000 square foot skatespot.

At the last meeting, several neighbors who live directly adjacent to the park came out strongly against the skate feature, claiming that skateboarders were “criminals”, and “degenerate”. Instead, they said, put it at High Point, where there’s already a lot of “noise”.

Doctor John Carr, while researching this project for his thesis, discovered that these neighbors were using skateboarders as proxies for their fears about…well…everything. He discovered that they had sent emails to the Parks Department that in effect, suggested that the criminal activity that “usually occurs in skateparks” would be a better fit in the High Point neighborhood, where there is “already a lot of crime”. Even in considering the valid concerns like noise and increased activity, both assertions about crime and who skateboarders are, are problematic.

From our interview with John last week:

What was so interesting, is at the same time they framed their objections to all the “noise” and “crime” that skaters would bring to their neighborhood, they often compared it to all the “noise and crime” from the black neighborhood. They would then say, “well, if you have to have a skatepark, put it across the street in the black neighborhood” either because it is already such a problem area, or because there is already a huge police presence there, or because the black neighborhood isn’t a “residential” area. The problem though, is the City has statistics showing that the black neighborhood is both a residential area and has crime levels on par with the rest of the area and the rest of the city. So, by saying “we don’t want the skatepark because it will bring the kind of noise and crime that happens in the black neighborhood” these white neighbors were really saying “keep the black kids out of our neighborhood.” But because they framed their objections in terms of who skaters are, rather than who African-American kids are, they got away with it. The City left the spot in the white neighborhood off the list of identified sites, and they have begun re-developing the park without a skate facility. Without the discursive proxy of the skater to code the neighbors’ requests, they couldn’t have gotten away with that type of claim in Seattle.

Here are quotes from some of the emails we got from Parks through public disclosure:

We strongly feel that a skateboard park in our residential neighborhood would bring more negative issues than positive. The increased activity for potential gang crime, a general hang-out for unsupervised youth, and increased traffic and noise is not something we feel should be introduced to our neighborhood. … just across the street there is a much more established and controlled facility already in existence at the High Point Playfield. .. the police are already patrolling [that] area for the not-so well-intentioned.

We purchased a home in this neighborhood due to the quiet and safe atmosphere it provided. Since acquiring our home, we have enjoyed the tranquil city views and green space the Myrtle Street Reservoir has offered. . . .A 10-30,000 square foot skate park does not belong adjacent to or in the middle of our neighborhood. The crime, drugs, traffic, noise, etc. that arrives with the skate park does not belong here and simply is not welcome.

My husband and I have lived near the Myrtle reservoir and water tower for several years. We purchased our house in this area because it is a quiet mature neighborhood. Yes there are children and we eventually plan to have children, but it is not a suburban cul-de-sac environment…. I am not against skate parks, children should be able to have recreation. I am, however, against putting theses parks in established neighborhoods. Highpoint seems to be much better suited as a location for a new skate park…. We have endured the noise and intrusion of the Myrtle Street reservoir construction, now you are asking us to put up noise, mess, crime, traffic, etc. for the rest of our lives! In addition to the inconvenience, this will also lower our home values.

As you can see, woven amongst the valid concerns there are reflections of bias in these emails that are not only unfair, they raise serious social justice issues about class, race, and the rights of everyone to have equal access to public recreational spaces.

Show up tomorrow and let the Parks Department know that not only are skateparks good for the community, but that the users of skateparks are merely a reflection of the community they live in. Also, come prepared to be a good ambassador for skateboarders. Let’s show these neighbors that this is about the kids in the Myrtle Neighborhood having a positive, active place to play that they can be proud of, and that no one wants to see an unsuccessful crime-filled park of any type.

Be there: Tuesday, January 22, from 7-9pm @ High Point Community Center.

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slacker.jpgThe 5-year plan is no longer just for remedial students who have just gotten way too comfortable with the status quo, and fearing the work it takes to actually make progress, try to prolong their free ride by sleepwalking through another year of symbolic ritual. The Seattle Parks Department is undertaking a 5-year planning process to try and scope out what they should be putting scarce resources into over the next half-decade, and they want you to be a part of it.

It’s no secret that funds for new park development will be minimal without the Pro Parks Levy, which ends this year. It’s also very possible that this planning process is a step toward documenting the need for a new Levy and what it might pay for.

From the Parks Department Strategic Business Plan website:

The Strategic Business Plan will identify emerging issues and policy questions relating to Parks’ current strengths, challenges and opportunities. The purpose of the Plan is to focus Parks’ activities to ensure the most efficient and effective use of public tax dollars.

I dunno…can you think of something that the Parks Department has found challenging over the course of the last decade?

Here’s what you need to do:

This is a very simple way to make sure that the Seattle Parks Department has skateparks on the Radar for the foreseeable future. Duty now for the future!

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nickels2.jpgSeattle Mayor Greg Nickels has presented his proposed budget for 2008 to the City Council, and for the first time in Seattle’s history the word ‘skateparks’ appears in a Seattle Mayor’s budget proposal. The Mayor also acknowledges the Skatepark Master Plan, which he strangely decided not to sign, and has kept a safe political distance from up to this point.

“Skateparks. Providing $365,000 to fund the next steps to implement the skatepark master plan. This will include funding for a new “skate spot” at Dahl Playfield and small facilities known as “skate dots” in several other locations.”

In the context of  Seattle being way behind the curve on skateparks (…to use a favorite Nickels phrase…), this is a positive move.  However, the amount suggested can barely build one skatepark, and Seattle needs bona fide skateparks way more than the tiny skatedots, which are meant to be supplemental. It also allocates resources for yet another North end park, while South and West Seattle skaters are still left driving to Ballard or Lower Woodland in order to ride.

Concerned citizens should call or write an email to the City Council and Mayor Nickels using the contact info below, and let them know that they need to up the ante on skateparks already, and aim for a wider geographical distribution. The skatepark master plan suggests several priority projects in the South and West, and calls for allocations closer to $1.5M for 2008.

Greg Nickels – (206) 684-4000 or greg.nickels@seattle.gov
Seattle City Council Budget Committee: (206) 684-8888 or budget@seattle.gov

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This came in from the Marginal Way Collective. Please support them by all means necessary!

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Hey Everybody!

Marginal Way Skatepark will be hosting the Red Bull 10 Stair contest
Saturday, August 4. Red Bull has offered to pay for skatepark
improvements as their contribution to the cause.

We will work all weekend of July 27-29 (a new pour!) and will need as many hands available as possible. This will be a great opportunity to gain some concrete experience and help the skatepark enter Phase 2.

Hope to see as many of you there as possible!

Marginal Way Collective
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http://marginalwayskatepark.org/

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There’s going to be a new skatepark in West Seattle next weekend…sort of…
Seattle skatepark advocates will be holding court at the temporary skatepark at the West Seattle Summer Fest on July 14th and 15th.

The temporary skatepark will be presented by Alki Bike and Board in conjunction with Manik, Nomadic, and Renton Skate Barn. It will be set up in the bank parking lot right behind Easy Street at 44th Ave SW and SW Alaska. Last year was a blast and we saw some great West Seattle talent ripping it up all weekend, along with demos from the Nomadic and Manik teams.

We’ll have a table at the park with tons of information to help get the word out about the need for skateparks in our city. There will also be a petition to sign, and a ton of free stuff.

Please drop by and say hello. We also need volunteers and some materials for this, so if you are interested in getting involved please drop us a line here.

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It looks like the skatepark at Crown Hill is back on the table for discussion after an earlier round bred controversy between skatepark advocates and opponents last year. Get out to this meeting and let the panel know that skateboarding is an important part of public recreation space in Seattle:

CROWN HILL PARK NEIGHBORHOOD MEETING
July 18th
6pm-8pm
9250 14th Ave NW

Please join us! We will be discussing the current status of the Crown Hill School Site and how the City and Small Faces are working together to acquire/develop the property. There will be a discussion panel to include members of Seattle City Council, The Mayor’s office, Small Faces, and Cascade Land Conservancy.Please attend and show your support for the park & school!

The park design includes little league baseball and soccer fields, biking routes, walking paths, a skate park and a mini-amphitheater for outdoor movies and music. Families welcome! Crown Hill Park is located on the south side of Small Faces Childhood Development Center 9250 14th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98117.

For more information, and details of the approved design please visit the web site: www.crownhillneighbors.org.

A site design diagram is also available here:
http://www.seattle.gov/parks/proparks/projects/CrownHillSchematic3.pdf

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