Now that the dust has settled a bit on the big announcement regarding Rob Dyrdek’s $75K donation to the City of Seattle for Roxhill skatepark, I want to break it down a bit and explore the details. There are many open issues and questions still left to be answered. So let’s dig a little into those details and come up with something a bit less circus-like, and translate it into something that might actually be meaningful information for Seattle’s skateboarders:
Dyrdek’s recognition of Seattle’s skatepark plan is a good thing. Seattle skateboarders, Seattle Parks, and the City Council have been working very hard for many years to make Seattle more skate-friendly. It’s great to have that effort recognized by someone like Rob.
Mayor McGinn comes out as in support of skateboarding facilities! On the eve of the hearing regarding the Summit Slope skatedot, this is really great news. This is the first time we’ve heard him talk about skateboarding, and if this kind of thing is what it takes for him to come out in support of safe public skateboarding facilities, then we’ll take it. If you peer into the much-lauded Citywide Skatepark Plan, there are no Seattle Parks logos on the pages, and the line that was left for the then-Mayor’s signature, remains unsigned. This is because McGinn’s predecessor wasn’t behind the plan, and actively campaigned to keep it from happening. He ordered Parks to remove the logos, and refused to endorse it. Mayor McGinn buries this dark chapter in Seattle skateboarding history by coming out in support of the plan (or, rather…Rob’s support of the plan). Thanks Mayor McGinn!
No one who worked on the City-wide skateboarding plan, or any skatepark advocates whatsoever, were at the press conference or even mentioned. A few of us were contacted at 1:00pm the day before the press conference, and being adults with jobs, kids, etc… we weren’t able to attend. Rob credits “the city” for the skatepark plan, and skatedots, which really isn’t accurate. The city has turned around and is now very supportive, but it wasn’t always that way. We don’t do this for the credit, but the advocates and skateboarders (or even the people in the Parks Department, or the City Council who worked with us…) who had to push hard for these initiatives probably deserved to be recognized, and weren’t. Which, in turn, made the whole thing feel a bit like a glory grab. Less than 24 hours notice is just plain disrespectful.
The Skatepark Advisory Committee was never consulted on where this donation would be best applied. When we surveyed this location during the skatepark plan process, the committee identified some issues with the site. One of them was that there wasn’t a lot of unused space available for a skatepark. Currently the only space large enough that’s not being actively used, is the Northwest corner, which is peppered with some mature trees. Whatever is built in this space is going to need to integrate those trees, because no one in Seattle is going to back tree removal for a skatepark (including the SPAC). Dyrdek’s best plaza designs generally consist of a large, continuous plaza, which simply will not fit at Roxhill. We could’ve raised this issue early, and helped them select a more appropriate location. The fact that the Parks Department’s own advisory council dedicated to skateparks wasn’t consulted on this makes us wonder why we’re here at all.
The Roxhill skatepark was already fully funded by the voter-approved Parks For All Levy, and as the Mayor mentions at 9:35 in this video from West Seattle Blog’s coverage of the press conference, the current plan is to repurpose $75K from the existing project budget back into the general fund. If this happens, Seattle skateboarders actually see no benefit from this donation. Rob Dyrdek effectively just made a donation to some other non-skate project. This is something we’re asking Parks to clarify, but I’m having a hard time imagining even Dyrdek getting behind this one.
$25K of the donation is actually materials repurposed from the Street League event. This is good for Rob and the Earth because the stuff doesn’t end up in the garbage. Conceptually, this is a good thing. One assumes that without this donation, Mr. Dyrdek would have to eat the expense to dispose of this material, and this gets him off the hook on that. But more importantly, the stuff Rob has presumably already donated, was designed for professional skaters and is literally unskateable by the majority of skateboarders, especially kids. Roxhill is in a neighborhood that houses a ton of kids, and (on last check) very few professional skateboarders. Sure, rails can be cut down, etc… but the act of trying to repurpose these features into the design is an additional design challenge that we wouldn’t have had to face if we weren’t trying to incorporate these existing pieces.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually think this is a great thing. If Seattle Parks continues to work with the SPAC on figuring out the answers to some of these questions, this donation will amount to a meaningful benefit to Seattle skateboarders. Unfortunately, due to some apparent timing issues with this all coming from left field at the last minute from the Dyrdek Foundation, and Parks not wanting to include the stakeholders to keep the public messaging machine cleanly oiled, there are now some serious open issues of concern.
One thing is for sure, the overt public message is good: The Mayor supports skateparks, Rob Dyrdek supports Seattle’s forward-thinking support of it’s own skateboarders, and by hook or by crook, Roxhill will be getting an awesome skatepark very soon.