What Makes a Good Skate Park?
By. Chris Gorski
This is a loaded piece for me to write because everyone is going to like different obstacles and skate park features based on their personal skating style. What I enjoy to skate may not be what you like to skate. So, instead of only going over the best features of a skate park we will also touch on other basic things that make a skate park a good skate park and what makes a bad skate park.
My personal favorite skate park features
A good hand rail: It may be hard to really emulate what is available on the actual streets but a skate park should have a decent rail set up complete with stairs. To be fair to both skateboarders and Rollerbladers a round rail and a square rail would be nice. An example of a bad handrail set up would be the park I grew up skating, one handrail which was square and about a foot and a half off the ground with no stairs so if you did fall you had a nice slanted concrete slide to go shooting down.
Quality hubba ledge: This is one of my all time favorite features of a skate park, if I can be so self indulgent, and a feature I have spent hours skating. Like I touched on above my home park didn’t have a great rail set up but they made up for it with a good set of hubba ledges. Best case scenario you will have a straight hubba and a slanted hubba. Hubba ledges can be super fun to learn tricks on and slightly wider slanted hubbas are great for cess slides.
Good flowing bowl: A good flowing bowl trumps a halfpipe or mini ramp any day of the week, in my humbled opinion. Now, if this bowl also smoothly transitions out into the park, well, my dreams have come true. Not all skate parks have enough room for this but a good flowing bowl is so fun to skate and can offer hours of fun low stress session time.
Skateboard and Rollerblade friendly features: More often than not skate parks are designed for skateboarders. There is simply more skateboarders out there and park designers know this, heck, most of the designers are skateboarders. In some cases it’s nice to have a separate section for Rollerblades but at the least there should be decent features for both bladers and boarders.
Non feature skate park amenities
A good bathroom: Seems like an easy one right? Wrong! Some skate parks will have no bathrooms and some will simply have a one room stall that is “supposed” to be cleaned by the park attendants but never does. If you are putting in a solid session and you are at the skate park for a couple of hours a good bathroom is kind of a big deal.
Quality park attendants: Not all skate parks have attendants and that’s fine because sometimes no attendant is better than a rude one. I’ve had great skate park attendants and terrible ones, I’ve received some great life lessons from some and have learned how not to act from others. Not all are going to be super mature but they should be able to equally support skateboarders, Rollerbladers, Bikers and even kids on scooters because at the end of the day we’re all there to have a good time.
Actual Hours: A good skate park should have legit hours, not just open when they feel like it and closed when they don’t. This is not as big of an issue with indoor skate parks but growing up skating an outdoor park that was fenced and locked when closed I had countless skate days ruined because it sprinkled rain in the AM for an hour and the rest of the day was sunny but they didn’t open, this was frustrating as all get out.
Decent Flow: The flow of the park refers to how easily and fluently one can skate around and hit obstacles and put together a “run” essentially. You can always tell which skate parks have been designed by an actual skater and those that have been designed by a non-skating contractor. Good flow leads to more speed and better overall skate-ability of the skate park.
Good up keep: This can make or break a skate park. I can no longer go to one of my favorite skate parks I used to skate daily when growing up because they have not kept up their transitions and now there is a good half to full inch gaps before some of the ramps. Bad up keep can be minuscule from not taking the garbage out the night before to not having the park fixed due to wear but when it starts to inhibit the skate-ability of the obstacles it is a huge issue.
Correctly poured concrete: As more and more skate parks are being made up of concrete it is more and more imperative that these parks are poured by professionals that understand how important it is to pour this correctly. Great skate parks can be ruined by terrible concrete pours so be on the lookout for properly poured skate parks.
Safety: To keep kids skating we need to ensure that parents feel safe when they drop their kids off at the skate park. A well monitored park should have boundaries like a fenced area and have workers that look after the skaters. Controlling gangs of people that use the skate park as a “hang out” and don’t even skate is a great plus as well.
Drinking fountain/ Water: As a skater I know how important access to good clean drinking water is especially while Rollerblading. Most skate parks will offer a drinking fountain or vending machines for that fancy name brand water but even a sink will do. A water source is a water source as long as the water is clean and a skate park should have at the least one, good clean water source.
What skate parks should NOT have
Overly artsy non skateable features: Some times the artsy features work and are great to skate and other times they are not. I am all for arts but the feature needs to hold some merit to the park and not inhibit the natural flow of the skate park. This is a mute point for most as not a lot of parks have these features but when they do it is hit or miss.
Rude park attendants: You know the ones, they can’t be bothered to help you between their texting and friend visitation. And, let’s be honest, most skate park attendants are skateboarders which is not a big deal as long as they don’t discriminate towards aggressive skaters and others but sometimes you get the “I’m better than you” skateboarder that has no patience for those darn “fruitbooters”.
Features caked in skate wax: It is so often that the Rollerbladers are blamed for excessive waxing when in reality it can be anyone doing it. Typically beginner skaters, either skateboard or blade, that cake on wax on features that most of the time they can’t even hit. Nobody that skates on the regular and can hit features with a bit of confidence wants a bunch of wax on anything. Nothing wrong with a light coating but enough is enough, get some speed and the wax you will not need!
Kids learning to skate: Alright, before taken the wrong way let me explain. Kids learning to skate means kids straight up learning how to skate normally, not learning to hit obstacles. Its one thing of you can skate fine but you are learning to hit your first bench, rail, ramp, etc but if you are simply learning how to skate from point a to point b, go to the regular park not the skate park.
Vending machines selling energy drinks: So, maybe you want to get amped up on an energy drink before skating so stop at the local consumption market but these should not be able to be accessed by kids that may be left at the skate park. And really, if you need more energy than skating already provides you may want to evaluate things further.
Dirty parks: This can be a big problem as dirt and debris can inhibit your ability to safely roll away from a trick causing you to fall. I’ve had a few instances where I completely ate it which luckily only ended up in some minor road rash but this can be fixed by simply sweeping the park at the end of the day.
As you can see there are more than a few things that perturb skaters. What it boils down to is respect; as skaters we need to respect the park and fellow skaters. Park attendants need to respect the park and skaters who are their customers. And the city needs to respect the park and provide ample support and see the park as a good cause. Overall there are many things that provide irritation at the skate park so for more please view our skate park etiquette guide.