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American Society of Landscape Architects


September 2004 Issue

Skateparks at a Dead End
Skateboarding is one of American kids' most popular sports. So why are skateparks sited where kids can't reach them?

By Tom Miller

Skateparks at a Dead End Steve Gump

A pile of broken glass lies at the bottom of a four-foot bowl in the public skatepark in Canby, Oregon. A trio of preteens circumnavigates the glass shards as if they do not exist. The skaters explain, "We can't skate with glass all over the bowl, so we use our shoes to push it all into one place."

Mention the skatepark in Canby's police headquarters and heads shake in consternation. Patrol Officer T. Brittain rattles off a field guide of concerns: "The park routinely floods, we see regular graffiti, adjacent businesses complain about property damage from skaters and now have cameras on site, and the helmet requirement is so regularly ignored we could issue exclusionary citations every day. The skatepark has become a hindrance for us."

What's up with this place?

Sam Haney, 15, says bluntly: "They should have put it closer to town." Like Haney, other skaters are bewildered by the decision to site the skatepark at the terminus of a dead-end road on the industrial edge of town.

Carla Ahl of Canby Planning & Building, the city agency involved in siting the park, confirms Haney's observations. "It has become a place to meet at night for bad behavior. Overall, the skatepark is a good thing, but we could have put a little more thought into its location."

Canby's unfortunate situation is all the more striking when one learns that in Oregon, a state renowned globally for its unparalleled concentration of premier skateparks, Canby's skatepark, at $330,000, was the second most expensive.

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