Some people have expressed concerns around anti-social behaviour that could stem from renovating Chorlton Park skatepark. I just wanted to take a moment to address these and hopefully relieve some of the anxiety that our project could generate. The idea that skateparks breed anti-social behaviour is mostly based around dated pre-conceived ideas and myths. Criminal behaviour such as graffiti, littering, smoking and fighting are often the result of a few individuals, however, the majority of people go to skateparks in order to exercise, improve their skills, and meet up with friends at the same time. Often, those engaging in antisocial behaviour at skateparks are not skaters or riders. Therefore, a busy skatepark will naturally deter unsavoury characters from committing an offence.
We, at Skate Chorlton, are hoping to not only build a new skatepark but also build a community of like-minded individuals around the love of skating. We want to build a space that people will love and want to look after. We are working hand in hand with the Friends of Chorlton Park and local organisations such as Unity Arts in order to ensure that this project is cohesive, sustainable and engages with the local community. We believe that skating is a positive and healthy activity and that quality skateparks are valuable community assets, and here are a few reasons why.
Skateparks at the heart of the community
Skateparks are not just all about skateboarding. Nowadays, skateparks are used by a variety of different wheeled devices, including: Skateboards, BMX, other bicycles, WCMX (adapted wheelchairs), scooters & roller skates (traditional and in-line). “Skateparks are not just sports facilities, but significant community spaces, and therefore often include a high quality of landscape design for their immediate setting and surroundings, in which the community can exist and develop” (Skateboard GB). Skatepark users often vary in age, gender, ethnicity, bodily ability, socio-economic background, etc. This inclusivity in turn allows more riders to feel able to engage in their chosen activity and engenders a general feeling of inclusivity at skateparks. This includes groups who are often underrepresented in mainstream sports, such as girls and women, people of colour, people of all gender identities as well as people with a disability: there has been a significant rise in ‘adaptive’ riders. Skatepark facilitate a sense of community between all these groups. There was a recent study published in February 2021 on the cultural identity of skateboarding.
Skating improves mental health and wellbeing
Skateparks occupy a central place in many people’s lives. For many, skateparks are more than just somewhere to skate. It is somewhere where they can meet up with their friends, catch up, unwind and switch off from the outside world. This is particularly true in the age of Covid-19 and lockdowns where isolation and loneliness have reached record levels. For many, skateparks have been the only source of socialising and perceived as a real lifeline for those.
Skateboard GB says: “There are strong links between skateboarding and mental and physical wellbeing. These benefits range from introducing young children to sport as a playful activity, to engaging teenagers who might otherwise be unattracted to team sports, to twenty-something millennials and Generation Z’ers expanding their sense of community, to middle-aged riders looking to keep active, alert and socially-connected”.
Skating: a fun hobby for healthy children (and adults)!
Arguably, the main argument for skateboarding is that it keeps you healthy and physically fit. Finding a
hobby that children enjoy and that keeps them active can be difficult: parents often think about football, martial arts, gymnastics or swimming but why not skating? As mentioned, earlier, there is a variety of activities to choose from: skateboard, inline or quad roller skates, scooter. All are equally healthy hobbies that require stamina, coordination and strength. Skating or biking and the lifestyles of the kids who practice them could be a key to fitness into adulthood. A 2008 study by Johns Hopkins University observed that regularly skating, rollerblading and biking increase children’s chances of fighting obesity as they grow. The odds were better than for those who played baseball and other organized, and often seasonal, sports. And it’s not just good for children: over the Covid-19 pandemic, many adults have taken on skating for the first time ever, or for the first time in 15, 20 years.
Skateparks help build social skills
Also, a skatepark is a place where users are inevitably forced to share limited areas and structures with people they don’t necessarily know. Skatepark etiquette is an implied, informal set of rules universally followed at skateparks to avoid chaos and prevent injuries: wait for your turn, do not “snake” (ie. jump in front of someone waiting for their turn), do not hog the ramp for too long, be aware of your surroundings etc. People cheer each other on, build each other up and celebrate successes and victories. It is generally a very healthy space for children to learn useful life concepts such as politeness, camaraderie, perseverance and patience. We are hoping to be able to implement such etiquette at the new skatepark and do what we can to make sure it is known to users and their parents in order to keep everyone safe and happy.
Skateparks are an alternative to street skating
Street skating is currently not allowed in central Manchester and is generally frowned upon as it can be seen as a nuisance when practiced in public spaces that were not built for skating. Indeed, it could cause damage to public and private property as well as accidents and collisions, and big gatherings can be perceived as intimidating by passers-by. The truth is that The more quality, purpose-built and cleverly designed skateparks there are, the less skaters will need to use public spaces. Everyone is a winner!
Skateparks have a positive economic impact
There is a huge variety in terms of skatepark designs. Often, a skatepark is divided into sections, a bit similar
to a house, where each room has a different purpose. Some skateparks have one big “room” that everyone shares. Other skateparks have “rooms” that skaters can use when the others are full. In general, the more “rooms” a skatepark has, the more simultaneous users it can accommodate. Skaters tend to enjoy rooms that are linked in some way so that they can easily travel from one obstacle or attraction to the next. Among skaters, this quality is known as “flow.” A skatepark has good flow when the elements within it are spaced in a way that makes traversing them easy and rewarding. It means that there is an infinity of designs and that people will travel to visit neighbouring quality skateparks. It means increased activity for local businesses: parents buying petrol, kids going to shops to buy drinks or snacks, adults buying coffee or lunch etc. Busy skateparks means fewer less desirable individuals that require privacy and can be a steady presence to encourage more visitors.