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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.