Skaters and skateparks have seemingly had an undeserved bad reputation since the sport was invented. Often labeled as outcasts by society, skaters are like the punk rock genre of the sports world. While some skaters embrace the label, the stereotype makes it difficult for athletes of the sport to garner community support for skatepark projects. However, as more people become interested in skateboarding and data shows the positive benefits of the activity, more communities may consider providing a place for these skaters to gather. Below is a list of five incredible and iconic parks that serve as a mecca for all skaters, locals and visitors alike.
Kona Skatepark has been a part of skateboarding history for almost as long as it has been open. The park opened in 1977, and despite going bankrupt twice in the first two years, it is still running to this day. Kona is now the world’s oldest surviving privately-owned skatepark and its history and culture are part of what makes it thrive. The modern vert ramp was invented at Kona, and can still be skated today along with the park’s other features such as their iconic snake run, a pool, and a street section. Since opening, the park has put Jacksonville on the skateboarding map and attracted big names like Tony Hawk, Mitch Kauffman, Buck Smith, and Peggy Turner. Kona has also helped to churn out more than 20 professional skateboarders from the Jacksonville community.
Image courtesy of Kona Skatepark
People ascribe the word vigilante like it’s a bad label. Yet, they praise Batman because he is a do-gooder outside the law, and looks cool doing it. The same goes for the Burnside Skatepark. We can’t condone illegally creating your own skatepark at the bottom of a bridge, but we can certainly respect its creators for how well they did just that. Burnside Skatepark was started by friends, Sage Bolyard, Chris Bredesen, Osage Buffulo, Mark “Monk” Hubbard, Mark “Red” Scott, Bret Taylor, and many more on Halloween in 1990. They cleaned up the area under the east side of the Burnside Bridge and used a bag of concrete to create a small bank on the wall to skate on. As time went on and as more skaters learned about the spot, more features were added to the park.
After a rocky start, today Burnside Skatepark has become an iconic piece of the city. As of 2021, Multnomah County had secured more than $300 million to redevelop and make the Burnside Bridge earthquake ready, which could directly impact the design and layout of the skatepark. According to Mike Pullen, a representative of the County, via a Business Tribune article, “The project has determined that the Skatepark is eligible to be on the National Register of Historic Places based on its historic qualities and significance, which gives it some protections… It’s interesting how many transportation projects have to work around a world-famous, do-it-yourself skatepark.”
Image courtesy of Tyler on Adobe Stock
The Venice Beach Skatepark may be newer than the previous two parks on this list, but the role Venice Beach played in the development of skateboarding in its early years is substantial. The city hosted many urban edges for skaters to enjoy. When Venice Beach was renovated from 1999 to 2001, the design did not include a skateboarding area. Though the park took longer than locals hoped, Venice Beach Skatepark finally opened to the public in 2009. The design was exceptional because the very same locals who advocated for the park were able to provide input on its design. The $2,365,000 project was funded by the City of Venice Beach and contains a snake run, two bowls, and a street section with various rails, ledges, and steps. Being one of the only skateparks in the world built on a beach, the skateboarding park attracts skaters and onlookers of all ages.
Image courtesy of Gerson Repreza on Unsplash
FDR Skatepark has a similar origin story to the Burnside Skatepark but in reverse. The city of Philadelphia wanted to stop skaters from using LOVE Park, so they built a skatepark under the I-95 bridge. After the design of the skatepark was botched, locals decided to make the best of a bad situation and modify the park with a focus on what skaters wanted most. The more the park improved, the more people continued to add new elements. What started as an empty lot with two pyramids and a ledge, now contains multiple sections featuring bowls, half pipes, and a street section. Describing all the exciting features would be time-consuming, but this park is a true skaters’ delight. In 2019, city officials unveiled a $200 million masterplan for the redevelopment of the 350-acre FDR park, transforming it into an urban oasis, including an elevated boardwalk, wetland restoration, and athletic fields. Through hours of community engagement – and to the delight of local skaters – the FDR skatepark will retain its original world-renowned curves and graffiti.
Image courtesy of @zolidelphia on Instagram
In the trilogy of skatepark projects built under a bridge, Boise is the one city to have done things right the first time around. Glenn Rhodes, the park’s namesake, heard that businesses were fighting with local skaters to get them to stop skating in the downtown areas. This was the genesis for him to create a skatepark that solved both parties’ problems. After consulting with his 16-year-old neighbor and skater Tim Shandro and his friends to figure out what skateboarders liked, Glenn went to the city with his plan. As a former county highway commissioner, Glenn was able to persuade the city to designate a 1.28-acre site for local skaters. Glenn oversaw the project every weekday for two years until the project was completed in 1995. Glenn passed away in 2009, but his memory and his contributions to skateboarding live on. The park was revamped in 2016 to update the features and is now one of the biggest skateparks in the northwest.
Image courtesy of Boise Parks and Recreation
Whether designed by professionals or handmade by locals, skateparks offer people a place to express themselves, exercise, and socialize in safety among friends and peers. Skateparks aren’t just good for the people who skate in the community. The National Recreation and Park Association found that well-designed parks don’t just attract local skaters, they often bring people in from a wide region to skate, watch friends and family skate, and attend events. The events fuel economic impact through visitor spending at hotels, restaurants, and shops in the area.